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Bumper Stickers Slogans: What is the Purpose of NATO?

NATO summit RigaEuropeans and Americans are less and less interested in NATO. The EU builds its own defense capabilities, while Americans prefer bilateral deals with Poland and the Czech Republic.
Many readers of the Atlantic Review consider NATO "dead" for many different reasons, see the comments section of this post.
I don't want to counter these arguments by quoting official NATO documents about the alliance's purpose or by outlining my thoughts on NATO as an "insurance" for confrontations with big powers and tougher times in the future. Rather I would like to quote two bumper sticker slogans concerning NATO's purpose and ask you how you would describe NATO's role on a bumper sticker. 

(1) Michael Lind of The New America Foundation quotes Lord Ismay, NATO's first Secretary General, in his book The American Way of Strategy (p.134):
During the early years of the Cold War, as we have seen, Churchill's military advisor Lord Ismay remarked that the purpose of NATO was to "keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down." Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, this reasoning continued to guide U.S. policy toward Europe.
You can read this quote and a few pages of Lind's book at this Google Books links. One of my favorite professors told me once that the above quote has very often been attributed to Lord Ismay, but nobody has actually presented any proof that he ever made that statement.

(2) Otfried Nassauer of BITS coined another bumper sticker slogan after the 1997 NATO summit. Source: Netzwerk Friedenskooperative (Network of the German Peace Movement):
Keep the Russians out, the French down and the Americans in the lead.
(3) Ten years have passed since then. What is your bumper sticker slogan concerning the purpose of NATO? And what do you think of the above slogans?

Related posts in the Atlantic Review:
Trans-Atlantic Cooperation: Are Europeans Unwilling to Share the Burden?
The Need for a New Transatlantic Ostpolitik
Poor NATO-EU Relationship


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Don S on :

Keep the Russians out, the US down, and the Germans/French in command.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

But the SACEUR has always been a US general... Nobody is even trying to change that. And every Secretary General has been very pro-US. The last German Sec Gen was Manfred Wörner (1988-1994). The French never had a Sec Gen for obvious reasons. The last and current Sec Gen have been British and Dutch. Very pro US countries. [url][/url]

Don S on :

The French and Germans showed they are unwilling to particupate unless given complete control, or at least an absolute veto on anything NATO does. They have no ideas of actuially contributing anything like a fair share to NATO's operational capabilities. No, what these two countries wish (the Spanish also) is to issue the orders for the 'stupid' peons of the US and UK to follow.....

Chirol on :

Everyone agrees NATO's primary purpose is now outdated however I believe it's premature to pronounce NATO dead. While the USSR is gone, a resurgent and increasingly belligerent Russia is no less a threat. In addition the proliferation of transnational threats like smuggling, failed states, terrorist groups and so forth will require additional responsibilities for the group. Afghanistan is a good example. NATO is also one of the few international organizations that effectively functions. It took NATO, for example, to take out Serbia in 1999 and NATO could respond much quicker in Afghanistan. It's exclusive membership and flexibility makes it everything the UN isn't and thus highly valuable. Moreover, it continues to play a role in maintaining the US-Europe relationship, arguably the most important one in the world.

Don S on :

Russia is 'no less' of a threat than the USSR was in 1950?!!!! Codswallop. Russia could have rolled over a prostrate Europe then - now they simply could not do it. Russia might be able to grab chunks of Poland if Western Europe refused to intervene, but there is no possibility that it could take and hold a square inch of Germany!

Chirol on :

I didn't say the nature of the threat was the same, but Russia continues to be a major threat to the west.

Don S on :

Again I say nonsense. Look at the patterns of history. Russia is a major threat and even a dominant power when the European powers are at odds or have fought each other into the stone age. Russia was a major threat to Prussia and England during the Seven Years war because France and Austria were at Prussia's and Hanover's throat. Later, Russia occupied Paris for a time at the end of Napoleon's tenture - but only after France, Austria, Prussia, and Spain had fought each other to utter moral and physical mutual exhaustion. The same after WWII, which destroyed Germany for a decade and prostrated Italy, France, the UK, and pretty much the rest of Western Europe. Absent those kind of conditions Russia can be a threat (particularly to the likes of Finland, Poland, or the other Eastern Europeans. But not a mortal threat because they are not capable of conquering and holding a stable and prosperous Europe. Particularly a Europe in whichFrance and Germany are united.

Kevin Sampson on :

I also believe that Russia constitutes a serious threat to Europe, however, the nature of that threat has changed from military to economic. By controlling an increasing amount of Europe’s energy supplies Russia exercises de facto control over most European economies. That said, I don’t see what Chirol expects NATO to do about it. If Russia turns off the heat in Germany, that is not an 'armed attack' as required by Article 5 of the NATO Charter. There would be no obligation for the US, or anybody else, to intervene.

Chirol on :

@Kevin: Indeed, what constitutes an attack is increasingly difficult to establish as the recent Russian cyberattack on Estonia so well demonstrates. This is one of the areas NATO is working on defining. In fact, there has been discussion about energy security and what constitutes an "attack" on a member state.

Sue on :

Europe's energy security is Europe's problem. Americans can tell Europeans what many of them told us: No blood for oil!

Kevin Sampson on :

While it may be true that it is becoming difficult to define what constitutes an attack in the broader sense, the Charter is quite clear that an 'armed attack' on any member state must be treated as an attack on all member states. It says nothing about economic, technological, or other forms of coercion. Nor should it, in my opinion.

Chirol on :

Indeed, at the moment, the charter is unchanged yet there has been talk of such. Whether it will happen and how it will be change remains to be seen. Nevertheless, NATO realizes that its mission has changed and is working to accommodate the many changes in global security. The increase in out of area operations is case in point.

Chirol on :

Sorry: Forgot to add this link to my comment "PRAGUE, December 5, 2006 (RFE/RL)—During the recent NATO summit in Riga, U.S. Senator Richard Lugar urged the alliance to declare that an energy boycott of any member be seen as an act of coercion against all members of the alliance and one that requires a collective response."

Pat Patterson on :

While Article 3 does specifically bind the nations to the defense of another if under an "armed attack", Article 4, on the other hand, suggests that acts short of war, which I would assume would includes blockades, subversion, infiltration, civil disorder etc., are grounds for NATO to consult and act if deemed necessary. As Chirol mentioned, but didn't elaborate, that NATO offered Estonia advice and aid to maintain, counteract and restore that nation's communication system. Like any large organization NATO will figure out a way to survive or else a lot of Belgians will be looking for work!

Pat Patterson on :

I forgot my bumpersticker slogan, "Keep the Germans interested, the Russians incompetent and pray that the Americans finally understand football."

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