French President Sarkozy is offering to increase France's military integration in Europe and some people do not seem happy. The heart of the French proposal is to establish what essentially will be a second military headquarters in Europe, one which will be European in nature. This has some British security people unhappy. Others fear this will act as competition for NATO.
The question is, why should the US not support this initiative. It is long past time for Europe to take its own security seriously and stop relying on the US to protect it. NATO was established as a temporary expedient to give Europe time to rebuild itself and defend itself against the Soviets. Europe is no longer a war scared continent and the Soviet Union no longer exists.
The Bush administration has been supportive of the French proposal, but I think it is time to go farther. It is time to turn NATO into a primarily European alliance. The next Supreme Commander in Europe should be a European and at the least, we should decommission the remaining 300 or so US nuclear warheads in Europe. Beyond that, we should look to remove the final 40,000 or so US troops on the continent. And finally, we should remain on the Atlantic Council but leave NATO military command.
Why do this? Primarily, Europe needs to take more responsibility for its own security. So long as we provide an overarching security guarantee for the continent, the Europeans will not take security matters seriously. Secondly, the enemy NATO was formed to defend against no longer exists. NATO is therefore reduced to defending Europe from Serbia. Thirdly, Europe should no longer have the central role it continues to have in US foreign policy. Our central concerns now should be Canada, Mexico and China.
Granted, there is the legacy of "Western Betrayal" -- the belief that at Yalta (and before) the Western Allies betrayed Poland and the rest of Central and Eastern Europe, handing those countries over communism. Part of current US European policy is to placate Eastern Europe. But frankly, the threat no longer really exists. Russia's threat these days is economic, that is, threatening to cut off the gas and oil flow. It is no longer a military threat.
One solution may be as follows. The administration wants to place an ABM radar and interception facility somewhere in Eastern Europe. Despite Russian saber rattling, the real party this is focused against is Iran -- the handful of interceptors proposed would do nothing to stop a Russian missile assault on the West, but would be enough to make Iran think twice before trying nuclear blackmail.
Despite my support of missile defense, I am not so sure this European shield is necessary. But if it is, why not placate Russian fears by giving up our European based nuclear weapons and promising additional deep cuts in our forces there in return for the interceptor base? Everyone gets something, and the US security guarantee to Europe is reduced.
Unfortunately, most of our foreign policy elites seem to be still thinking in Cold War mode.