What Should NATO's Future Hold?

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
April 3, 2009
NATO Roundtable at Headquarters

From April 3-4, 2009, NATO holds its 60th Anniversary Summit in Strasbourg, France and Kehl, Germany. The Summit will celebrate NATO’s past achievements while looking to the future of NATO.

In Strasbourg, France, President Obama said, “We cannot be content merely to celebrate the achievements of the 20th century, or enjoy the comforts of the 21st century; we must learn from the past to build on its success. We must renew our institutions, our alliances. We must seek the solutions to the challenges of this young century.”

What should NATO's future hold?

Comments

Comments

Ron
|
New York, USA
April 3, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

NATO21

A flexible, rapid response capability to establish or restore security and stability in conflict situations.

The NATO21 Force must have real-time capacity to intervene in crisis-zones with complete authority vested by the governing entities. NATO21 can deploy forces to overpower any actors engaged in crisis-induction, for any purpose. NATO21 must be alligned and cooperate with restoration and development programs in regions beyond the previous scope of NATO. North Atlantic is so 20th Century.

How about GTO...Global Treaty Organization?

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
April 4, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

NATO's future rests on one simple, but complex question.

"What kind of world do we wish to live in?"

Simple in the asking, complex in manifestation.

One goes through life's phases, in a constant state of flux, the duality and paradoxical nature of socio/poltical/ economic decay and renual necessitate an individual's contant reinvention of self to meet crisis and opportunity sucessfully.

International org's such as the UN and NATO are no different, but with the added parameter of having multiple personalities that tend to manifest in schizophrenic approaches to common problems, especially in respect to the duality of war and peace on a philosophical and practical level.

The removal of Saddam, a criminal with multiple priors and a history of WMD use on his own people being a prime example.

The inability to collectively halt Genocide in Darfur...

I could cite more than a few examples over the years.

The lack of political will manifest from the European public's general unwillingness to face reality that the war on al quaida and terrorism in general is a fight to the death that they own just as surely as the American public and government does is a serious internal threat to NATO's common defense.

"We are all Americans" translated in practical terms into "Bush's war" when it came down to contributing combat troops to fight it. Like it was somebody else's problem...no insult intended to those that did, but America has always had to do the heavy lifting for NATO. One tradition that seems all too illogical to maintain at this point.

When in reality every NATO member in Europe should be prepared right now to contribute at least 20-30% of their total individual nation's combined armed force structure to an essential common cause to safeguard civilization.

Let me explain in stark terms what the failure to do so looks like.

The immediate and inevitable effect of a nuke going off in any major metropolitan area on this planet will be the spontaneous evacuation of every other metropolitan area on Earth as a natural human response in self preservation to the threat of nuclear terrorism.

At least for a period of time. One in which chaos reigns, economies collapse, and millions more die in the collapse of social order.

We in America have no illusions of what is at stake, and the President was absolutely correct to tell his audience not to fool themselves about the risk they face along with us.

We are all on the same side here, and we better start acting like it.

I have said many times in many context on this blog and elsewhere that "Attitude is everything.", and I'm grateful to the President for driving that point home and parking it in the minds of Europeans as well as the rest of the world's population that was listening.

Edite
|
Canada
April 6, 2009

Edite in Canada writes:

NATO was originally formulated as an entity that would act as a counter balance to the horrendus Soviet threat that ruled half of Europe and was threatening further expansion. Prime Minister Churchill was the only one of the The Three Stooges at Yalta in 1945 who recognized the extreme Soviet threat but did nothing about it. President Roosevelt, who was probably so full of medication and just plain stupidity, behaved like Joseph Stalin's BFF (best friend forever) and along with Churchill sold half of Europe to the Soviets in exchange for a piece of Germany to patrol. These enslaved countries endured Russification, torture, shipped innocent men, women and children to Siberia in cattle cars to die in a barren wasteland in solitary unmarked graves.

Basic common sense was the order of the day when the Atlantic Alliance was born and it has stood its ground honorably and well in its 60 years of existence.

No one, but no one, should express surprise that all of the newly independent countries once enslaved by the Soviets would flock to become NATO members in order to become protected under NATO's umbrella. As well, these countries had far more in common culturally with Central Europeans within NATO countries than the extremists of the near and far East. Russia is acting like a spoiled child without merit when it squalls about an anti-ballistic missile defense shield in the Czech Republic or a radar tracking station in Poland. What colossal nerve! After what those Stalin lovers have done to hundreds of millions of souls that they wiped off of the face of the eareth. And if the State Department remains of the mind that a quid pro quo with the Russians will help them with Iran's nuclear ambitions, then their best and brightest have cotton balls between their ears where their brains should be. How many State Department officials have even read about the diabolical nature of the Soviets? Do they not know that Russia has never held up to its signed agreements with other countries, most recently, getting out of Georgia, all of it.

Today, the world is overwhelmed with enemies of every kind and stripe. They are not known enemies like Nazis and Communists who had borders, command levels everyone knew, predictability as to their fields of operation and probable knowledge of their weapons of treachery except perhaps when the Germans fooled the Allies into believing that they had rapid speed fighter planes by the thousands when what they showed to the world was only a prototype. Oh, the vagaries of war.

The enemies the world faces today, hide their faces, operate out of unknown caves and are inclined to chop peoples heads off just for the shock value. And then the rest of the world cries like babies when waterboarding is used by the U.S. as a form of an interrogation technique.

President Obama likes to use his touchy, feely ways with evil regimes who would do us irreparable harm given half the chance. Evil exists, in the form of Satan, who cajoles and promises all sorts of goodies if one would just join up with them. Even Jesus Christ was not a complete goody-two shoes when dealing with corruption and evil and sin. He expressed his anger in the temple where the moneychangers were bartering by turning their tables upside down and sweeping them out of the temple. Christ also used sarcasm when neccessary and defended using armed assault against evildoers. It was not always, turn the other cheek. Believers of New Age punditry and other forms of learning The Secrets of life are off course and not living in the real world.

As long as evil doers exist in this world, in whatever form they take, NATO will remain a viable, necessary rapid expeditionary force to wipe out any and all who wish us harm.

Thank God for their sacrifice and nobility.

BernARD
|
Netherlands
April 4, 2009

Bernard in the Netherlands writes:

NATO was organized as a mutual militaire responds organisation to militairy threats against either one of the Member States. Some militairy threat still exists though chances for successful diplomatic resolution of conflict are... better. Nowadays more frequently threats that devestate country's integraties are 'climate related by nature'. (I drew up a calandar of hazards and calamities usinng five years of news messages at a specialized site). Their effects are comparably to the effects of all out wars, therefor only to be answered "military" responds. Only a co ordinated militairy apparatus can deal with such invase and destructive events with first line effectiveness. Humanitarian services are not equiped and not organized sufficiently or adequatly to effectively make a difference within the first week after 'destruction day'.
So I think the NATO means should more often be employed for this type of actions. It is better (spent) practice than the usual similated war operations that will stlle be needed every now and then.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
April 5, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Under a lemon sky, the question "What kind of world do we want to live in?" has been answered.

http://www.eu2009.cz/en/media-service/video/projev-prezidenta-baracka-ob...

Syrian P.
|
Syria
April 6, 2009

SNP in Syria writes:

Disband, it has outdone its usefulness, it is now a Crusaders army working to install puppet regimes running new U.N. Mandates, the Soviets are long disbanded, Moslem armies are to protect the nations thieves, they shall pose no threat to Europe, so what all this expense is needed for when you are bellying up.

Ron
|
New York, USA
April 6, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

NATO and Loose-Nukes:

In the future (make it quick), NATO will have a comprehensive intel-to-action-network to locate and seize loose-nukes, dual-purpose technologies, and other componenebts of WMD's. NATO's membership must be expanded to include players who have expertise in these critical areas.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
April 6, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ SNP, In your dreams....

Anna
|
District Of Columbia, USA
April 6, 2009

Anna in Washington, DC writes:

NATO's future is in the collective security of its members; the alliance's fundamental mission should not change. NATO must adapt to the world in which it operates.

Even though the world has changed, Russia remains a key factor in NATO's future. And it should. The New York Times posted an op ed that smartly speaks to the dynamic between Russia and NATO.

BEGIN QUOTE: At this point, the immediate goal is not finding the precise formula for reaching out to Moscow, but beginning a strategic conversation that makes clear that NATO members are sincerely committed to anchoring Russia within the Euro-Atlantic community. The conversation can begin by exploring ways to make more of the NATO-Russia Council. NATO members should pick up on Moscow's call for fresh thinking about a "new European security architecture." This dialogue must be backstopped with concrete strategic cooperation on issues such as missile defense, access to Afghanistan and diplomacy with Iran. END QUOTE

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/31/opinion/31iht-edkupchan.html?_r=1&ref=...

Susan
|
Florida, USA
April 6, 2009

Susan in Florida writes:

@ SNP in Syria -- NATO may seem archaic but updating it seems a far better idea than disbanding it. If for no other reasons than the examples you gave. Russia disbanded? Hardly. They are "quietly" re-grouping. They don't know or want real freedom. And "Moslem armies"..no threat? I doubt that also. Interesting that you use the term "crusaders" in your comment. That seems to be the excuse for hatred toward Western Civilization. Do you, or anyone else in Syria, want to live in the 11th century again? This is not just about Europe or America. It is about the world and the right of all individuals to be able to have a say about their lives.

Wendy
|
California, USA
April 6, 2009

Wendy in California writes:

Halve military expenditures/cooperations and double development expenditures/cooperation.

Every weapon steals from a hungry child. We need a smart super-well-equipped interpol-ish police force and use the remaining resources to save the staggering planet.

We would all be much more greatly protected by universal birth-control than by all these bristling weapons. Keep the population to a number that the now genuinely wiser social systems can catch up with.

NATO could lead in this angle & emphasis of cooperation. Thus we would actually be safer.

John
|
Greece
April 7, 2009

John in Greece writes:

NATO is our only vital DEFCON mechanism in order for West to be and remain FREE in a dangerous world, full of devious "burka/burqa" enemies.

I really cannot get it why some people in this Blog do not want to understand that we have to face plenty of threats:

1. Russia attempts to "disband" NATO and create a new "Warsaw Organization". They press/push Ukraine, Georgia, Poland, Czech and plenty of other key-countries to follow a camouflaged "new ex-Soviet" model! It's obvious what they are trying to do! Of course, they will never make it!

2. China? The President, Madame Secretary, DoS and the Administration in general, have already done a great diplomatic job. But, can you trust Chinese for sure, without having an alternative backup (NATO) in case something goes wrong in the future? No!

3. North Korea? Everybody understands how complicated and dangerous things are. Just read Ericãs posted views on the issue and you will get the picture.

4. Fanatic Muslims and Al-Quida? I don't think that I need to make a comment on this. Everybody understands the danger. President Obama puts it in a great, honest base: U.S.A. does not have a problem with Muslims. This is obvious! U.S.A., an immigrant country with multiple religions and cultures has nothing to prove concerning this. Mr. Obama is RIGHT! But, how can you trust the fanatic sheikhs?

5. What about Venezuela and the left-wing "gang" that strange circles are attempting to create southern of Mexico?

And the list goes on -- with tens of probable "enemies"!

NATO is our only guarantee for FREEDOM. And I'll be more cruel: We must make the Alliance even stronger. Besides, we must stop allowing "double roles" or countries being in first, double or third gear, concerning their devotion. Either you believe in NATO, or not.

@ Susan in Florida -- I absolutely agree with you!!!

@ Eric in New Mexico -- "In your dreams" (SNP). This make us at least two with the same opinion Bro.

@ Wendy in California -- Although I would love to live in a world without guns and wars, our planet and human beings, instincts and behaviors are not so romantic. So, although I do not disagree with your "spiritual wishes and views", West is fully surrounded by probable enemies. Let's face it! You can call them fanatic Muslims, Russians, Chinese, whatever, but the truth is that there is always a danger for us.

Our only "DEFCON" mechanism when the defense led indicator is green is only DEFCON NATO.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
April 7, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ John in Greece, When a comment is so devoid of reality that "In your dreams..." is an appropriate response to it, then my opinion is that the response is based on fact rather than opinion, since the comment in question is self evidently delusional.

You wrote:

"3. North Korea? Everybody understands how complicated and dangerous things are. Just read Eric's posted views on the issue and you will get the picture."

Were you refering to my post of Mon Apr 06 regarding yard-a pults and "multilateral" choice? @:

http://blogs.state.gov/index.php/entries/north_koreas_missile_launch/

LOL!

I forgot to add one possible scenario...

That when and if the city council decides to enforce sanctions on me for launching trash into my neighbor's yard despite their pleadings to cease and desist..., what will they do when I threaten to escalate the issue by adding some really dank kitty litter, along with the "biological experiment" that's been growing in my refrigerator for the last six months, and launch it all in a multiple re-entry vehical at the masters of the barking dog population in the neighborhood? (chuckle).

All politics is local, right? Right. Absolutely.

It's called "Keeping up with the Jones'." as far as proliferation goes.

Zack
|
District Of Columbia, USA
April 7, 2009

Zack in Washington writes:

Yes.

Zharkov
|
United States
April 8, 2009

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

NATO deserves the same treatment that SEATO received, if we expect peace with Russia in Eastern Europe. SEATO was dissolved on June 30, 1977, despite the threat of North Korea, China's military buildup, etc.

Every European nation has an army and nothing prevents those nations from agreeing among themselves to defend each other without drawing all of Europe and the United States into military standoffs as NATO would do.

The Georgian attack on Russian troops is one example where the entire NATO force might have been mobilized in a major (potentially nuclear) war merely because President Saakashvili ordered an incredibly pointless attack on Russian peacekeepers. This is the danger NATO.

NATO is not acting in the interests of the United States when it expands into areas that raise concern with Russia, and NATO may well get us involved in disputes that are of purely European concern.

With the end of the Warsaw Pact, there is no greater need for NATO than there was for SEATO.

John
|
Greece
April 8, 2009

John in Greece writes:

@ Zharkov in U.S.A. -- The role of NATO is not necessarily to "make wars", but basically to prevent them. That's exactly what it did during the Russian invasion to Georgia.

It may sounds simple, but NATO is somehow like a (Global) Police. Any Police can have arrests if necessary, but at the same time it works like a prevention mechanism that discourages bad guys to break the law.

Nobody can prove us if Russians would have "turned around" during the Georgia crisis if there was no NATO, and none can persuade us that in case we had no NATO, today, Georgia would not be a "part" of Russia, returning things to the Cold War. And after this, Ukraine etc. So, according to me, your argumentation is not strong enough to "disband" NATO's role.

By the way, you always try to give a micro focus on macro issues: QUOTE: Every European nation has an army and nothing prevents those nations from agreeing among themselves to defend each other without drawing all of Europe and the United States into military standoffs as NATO would do. END OF QUOTE.

Don't you understand that if a house near you is on fire, your own house too will soon be burning. Why you forget that if the United States of America had not engaged in WW2, we (Europe/America plus other places) would be "Germans" today. America saved the world back then + America!

Nowadays, Global Freedom, Democracy and Peace are even more Global issues than they used to be. And the importance of NATO's role, NON-Negotiable.

Note: Just for the new readers/contributors, I suggest you to read Eric's in NM posts (especially the one posted on Wed Sep 17, 2008) and hit this link:
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/world/2008/09/20080916_Georgia...

Anna
|
District Of Columbia, USA
April 8, 2009

Anna in Washington, DC writes:

@ Zharkov -- great to have you back on the blog! I've missed your comments and your "debates" with John and Eric. You guys make me think about things differently.

But I disagree with you about NATO. The United States needs a strong Western alliance. Just this morning I heard on the radio about Chinese and Russian spies hacking into the U.S. electrical grid. The Wall Street Journal reported the same:

QUOTE: Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials.

The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, these officials said, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls. The intruders haven't sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure, but officials warned they could try during a crisis or war. END QUOTE

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123914805204099085.html

Cyber terrorism is just one of the challenges of this new century that we'll be stronger facing with allies.

Zharkov
|
United States
April 8, 2009

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

The reason for NATO no longer exists. NATO can do nothing about our lack of cyber security. If our systems are open to hackers, it is our error for not protecting them, just as it is citizen's responsibility to not leave car keys in the car for thieves to steal.

NATO cannot mobilize its nuclear forces to eliminate computer hacking -- it is not cost-effective. But of course, NATO itself is not cost-effective. It was not NATO that dissuaded Russia from finishing the work in Georgia, but Russian leaders themselves who weighed the cost of losing relations with Europe and America over a mistake by Georgia's president.

So it boils down to our friendship, not our NATO, that brought an end to the Russian advance. Russians themselves prefer to be friends with us but do not trust us and in that regard, NATO's expansion is not helping.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
April 8, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

The question of whether NATO is relevant to today's world is not the the question, what it's future holds is.

Simply put, now that the nations of Europe have joined together and formed the EU, NATO still offers the best mechanism for Europe's common defense, despite changes in mission parameters over the years since the fall of the Soviets.

"An attack on one is an attack on all." as premis for NATO's existance to begin with, becomes all the more relevent to a united Europe.

And lastly , but not least...as long as nations still want to join NATO, it's relevance as a viable institution for peace is self evident.

NATO's continued existance is not up for debate, it's a "given".

Eventually Russia will come to realize there's no intent to "assimilate" , no threat to it's territorial integrity, and join NATO as a means to secure it's own interests and role in world affairs as being essential to global security.

Then and only then will Stalin's dysfnctional legacy of biting the hands that freed the Russian people from NAZI occupation via allied "lend-lease" in WW2 be forever erased.

Kicheon
|
California, USA
April 8, 2009

Kicheon in California writes:

It would be wonderful if all nations were willing to take action against international law breakers. However, the reality is not so as can be seen in the process of collective security in the U.N.

All countries in the world are looking out for their own national interests, even to the point of breaking international laws, previous commitments, UNSC resolutions, and other international rules. In this case, one of the possible collective actions against the breaking of international rules is military action conducted by allies having common interests, rather than by voluntary collective security action among U.N. members.

As a military alliance, NATO is a great instrument for guaranteeing that both members and non-members adhere to international rules in Europe because allies in NATO are, even if not in all cases, ready to cooperate and employ military force for their own national interests against violators of international regime and rules.

Zharkov
|
United States
April 8, 2009

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

Nothing in the U.S. Constitution makes governing Europe our concern. When the E.U. decides to apply for U.S. citizenship, let me know.

I would suggest that the EU can afford to protect itself without our help.

John
|
Greece
April 8, 2009

John in Greece writes:

@ Zharkov in U.S.A. -- Old Z's "pure" technique: Change of subject. (I missed you)

NATO and DoD is one thing, intel and anti-spying is another.

Anna in Washington addressed you her post to persuade you that there is always a danger from various enemies, especially Russia and China. And I think that her comment and suggested link automatically proved this thesis:

WE ARE SURROUNDED BY PROBABLE, FUTURE ENEMIES.

However, Military platform is one thing and "fighting" spies is another one. We do not support NATO in order for us to stop the spies or defend ourselves against "new technology intel attacks". This is something CIA, NSA, FBI -- or any other Service -- has to fight for. But, as long as you brought -- by mistake -- to table this new millennium parameter, I would add that these Agencies (CIA etc.) should get a really bigger budget in order for them to fight their new "enemies": electronic hacking and spying.

Concerning your phrase "Russians themselves prefer to be friends with us but do not trust us", I have to admit that sometimes you really make me feel moved, concerning how you describe the Russians. However, in the real world, there is an 101 advice for starters: TRUST NOBODY. So, neither do we trust them, thank God!

I imagine they do not trust us on the ground that we used tanks to invade Poland, Czech, Hungary, East Germany, Romania "half of the globe" (IRONY!)

Susan
|
Florida, USA
April 8, 2009

Susan in Florida writes:

Russia's desire for world domination has not changed. Her history/her leaders prove this. Who is "running" Russia today? Ex-KGB man, Putin. Who is Russia good friends with now? Iran. They don't trust us? Well, hopefully, we aren't so stupid as to trust them. When have they ever been our friends? Churchill was right.

Ron
|
New York, USA
April 8, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

Like Bretton Woods Institutions, NATO is the "General Motors" of the Global Military. Both should have retooled decades ago....Now they can synergize their efforts at ensuring economic stability and regional security.

The geo-political clock is banging!

joe
|
Tennessee, USA
April 8, 2009

Joe in Tennessee writes:

Russia is an economic wonder because of a Nationalist who loves his country. When he seen the Free Market system was not beneficial to Russia, he dismantled it. When he seen there was not enough work, he developed it, when he had a chance to control his economy and store gold and platinum he did it, when he seen political methods to lever his country back to power, he took them; so, how does that make him a monster? Sure would be nice if every single American Representative loved his people so much. We GAVE Russia the means to grow by trying to control its economics externally; but Putin put Russia first and single handedly gave Russia the means to be a world power again.

Do I think his methodology is right? It Does not Matter to be honest; but you cannot simply put down someone who is successful. You have to respect the man. In business, you never deface your competition; you simply do a better job.

Why are we so arrogant as Americans that we can go broke because of poor decision making by all our leadership, reward those who did it and then strike out at a man who would not let it happen in his country? We sound like idiots to the world when we do that.

Sure would be nice if every single American Representative loved his people so much...

The world needs a stable bad guy anyway....

Susan
|
Florida, USA
April 9, 2009

Susan in Florida writes:

@ Joe in Tennessee -- Love of his people? More like love of power. Be careful what you wish for. We have already had too many "we know what is best for America" borderline totalitarian "bad guys". I prefer freedom of thought and the rights guaranteed in our constitution. To me that is not arrogance, that is just smart. Sorry, Russia is not free and Putin's intent is not honorable.

Leroi
|
United States
April 9, 2009

Leroi in U.S.A. writes:

President Obama said, "We cannot be content merely to celebrate the achievements of the 20th century, or enjoy the comforts of the 21st century; we must learn from the past to build on its success. We must renew our institutions, our alliances. We must seek the solutions to the challenges of this young century."

vapid, vacant gibberish

What should NATO's future hold?

Reduction to a European Union police force/"national" guard.

NATO was originally set up as a counterweight to the Warsaw Pact. The Warsaw Pact is gone, and its moving force, the USSR is gone. The Euros do not view Russia as a threat to them, and they view the Eastern European countries as low rent trash. The Euros cannot handle anything militarily on their own, and they don't want to.

Their biggest threat is their own slow and willing surrender to Islam. NATO cannot stop that.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
April 9, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Perhaps the Russians don't trust us because they know what they'd do with the kind of power the U.S. has, and wonder what we're going to do with it.

And we don't trust them because we know what they'd do with the kind of power we have, if they had it, and we wonder if they want to have the kind of power we have at our expense. So we base our relationship on mutual interest, and call it good.

(ponderings of a life-long student of the human condition)

Steve
|
Minnesota, USA
April 9, 2009

Steve in Minnesota writes:

I was very impressed with Obama's speech in Strasbourg and feel like he is on a path to restrengthen the ties between the US and our NATO allies. We need to always strive to keep strong alliances with all nations working toward peace.

Zharkov
|
United States
April 9, 2009

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

One glaring example of why some Russian leaders do not trust us can be found with Mr. Gorbachev, who along with one of his assistants present during the conversation, said that President Reagan assured him that NATO would not expand toward Russian borders.

Now Gorbachev is a smart man who knows this could have been reduced to writing in the form of an agreement with NATO, or a treaty to be approved by Congress and the President, and obviously it should have been if it was offered and accepted, but it is also quite awkward to tell a president that his word is not trusted, particularly one like Reagan, who could instantly have taken offense to that comment, had it been made. It's easy to blame Mr. Gorbachev for not asking for written documentation but possibly that could have ruined the mood of the meeting.

So we have Mr. Gorbachev and his assistant telling Russians that we broke our promise concerning the expansion of NATO. Was it a translation mistake, a misunderstanding, or merely a hope that went unfulfilled, or a deliberate exaggeration? Or was it the solemn word of one leader to another that a specific line would not be crossed?

Can any U.S. President guarantee anything concerning NATO? Or is NATO similar to the UN in that no single nation has total control of what it does? And if the U.S. cannot control what NATO does, then why would we want to support it?

Perhaps it was not the kind of assurance that Mr. Reagan should have made to Mr. Gorbachev, if he made it, but I am inclined to accept Mr. Gorbachev at his word on this point. However, if limiting NATO expansion was so important, it should have been written down and signed as we would do with any other agreement or treaty.

Assuming Mr. Gorbachev is correct, should we investigate to see whether NATO had broken Mr. Reagan's promise? Is anyone able to confirm or deny that such an assurance was made?

Another example is the Jackson-Vanik legislation which was originally intended to restrict trade with the Soviet Union, but now hinders trade with Russia. The Soviet Union no longer exists, and the Russians expected this discriminatory legislation to be repealed. Now they have jumped through all the hoops we presented them, and they are still stuck with Jackson-Vanik, for seemingly no good reason other than residual Cold War prejudice.

We might repeal that barrier to trade and earn some good will, if the Hillary "reboot" button means anything more than vacuous symbolism. The Russians pushed the button. Nothing happened. Does it work?

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