Eastern European NATO members

The affection between the Eastern European governments and the U.S. government under Bush puzzled me for years. A distant power with marginal logistical links to the region (except trough Western European ports), no real history of involvement in the region, no troops in the region, few troops close to the region was assumed to be the supreme protective power?

There was a similar relationship between Western Europe and the U.S. in the Cold War - a marriage of convenience with strong advantages for both. The U.S. would have been hopeless if Western Europe had turned red, and they knew it.
What did the Eastern Europeans believe to have that could make them as important to the U.S.? Their role as supplier of auxiliary troops?

It was just as some comments in newspaper columns suggest; America brought a lot of enthusiasm, asserted leadership - and asked for real return service.

The EU on the other hand had a huge economic and fiscal relevance, and its citizens are (much) more likely than Americans to at least know where countries like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania or Poland are located on a globe.

The uneven, with the Obama administration even shaky security relationship seems to puzzle Eastern European foreign politicians as well; several well-known former politicians wrote an open letter to Obama about their concerns. These politicians, who were responsible for that strategy, do still stick to it.

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The whole affair should be a wake-up call for EU leaders as well. The slumber in continental security policy was a mistake. Russia has still not officially accepted borders and sovereignty of all Eastern European NATO members. It's probably about time for the major European powers to press Putin and Medvedev on this issue beyond their breaking point.
The recognition of a neighbour's sovereignty is a requirement, even if the general intent is a good relation with win-win diplomacy.

There are some unresolved issues; problems that are nowadays quite alien to Western European powers (as for example concerns about sovereignty and integrity of your borders).

We did (for in my opinion strange reasons) invite the Baltic countries into NATO. Now we're stuck with them. We cannot kick them, we must not neglect them - the only way out of our responsibility would be to leave NATO ourselves (and have an alternative alliance).
So far all members want to stick with NATO, so let's do it for real.

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The Eastern European nations are to blame as well. They should stop daydreaming and get serious.

The U.S. is likely not seriously interested in their defence, but in exploiting them to divide the EU and in their ability to supply auxiliary troops and U.N. votes.

Eastern European efforts in national defence (about 1.2% to 2 % GDP in the past years) had a very different tune than their public concerns about Russia. Those expenses are more comparable to Germany's military expenditures, but unlike them we have some R&D expenditures and relevant infrastructure investments outside of our defence budget and we're no frontier nation with huge concerns about a possible invader.

The downsizing of for example the Polish military and a partial 'transformation' of Eastern European armies towards auxiliary troops deployments to places that are entirely irrelevant to their national security does not sound like a robust defence policy to me.

Their relative disregard for the Western Europeans in defence policy is also a poor move if they want to increase Western European commitment. Being disregarded doesn't exactly motivate to increase your engagement if you've got plenty other topics for your distraction.

The continental European powers have a much better ability to help quickly and to actually stall an invasion. Their geo-strategic location is incomparably better than the American one. The American ability to intervene militarily in Eastern Europe would amount to almost nothing if Germany decided to go seriously neutral, for example.

Many experts discuss Afghanistan as if it was a litmus test for NATO, a decisive test. That's B.S..

The Eastern European sovereignty issues have the potential to create a real test for NATO (and the EU). That's not in-fashion, of course. It's not about rag-tag militias in distant places or fashionable counterinsurgency theory. It's about the original, real purpose of NATO, and that 's what the most aggressive NATO members have been worst at since the end of the Cold War.



  1. A distant power seen as powerful enough to act unilaterally vs. a group of minor states (compared to US) with somewhat conflicting interests? No real history - USA faced Sov.Union for 40 years, and faced them down. And even recent history does not create much trust - it was Schröeder who went to work for Gazprom, not Bush or Cheney.
    EU´s fiscal and economic relevance is huge indeed,but one wants to have not only good bürgermeisters, but a decent sheriff in town too.
    EU has not a strong security policy, nothing that can act as equal to Rus. or USA.
    The moment EU becomes more butch, is stock goes up. And it´s very probable that it would displace USA as the main security guarantee

    And your own post several months (?) ago about western europeans willingness to stand up against Russia over Baltics? The numbers were enlightening for somebody living in Estonia :)

    But your criticism about East. Eur. defence daydreams is well-placed and i´m taking a liberty to add a nice link about it (the last third of the text is relevant in given context) http://blog.clemmesen.org/categories/posts-in-english/ : Danish Brig.General M. Clemmensen (retired?) was for many years head of Baltic Defence College.

  2. I don't understand your conviction that the US has a sort of conspiracy against the EU and other european organizations (please correct me if I am wrong). It's a common trend in many of your posts. You seem to insinuate that the two are almost enemies or at the very least have poor relations, which doesn't seem true to me.

  3. NATO stood against the Warsaw Pact, it wasn't the U.S. alone.
    The U.S. role in the Cold War focused on the high seas and the Third World, not on Europe.

    The U.S. Americans have an astonishing talent in promotion, public relations and similar activities. They do something and speak loudly about it every time - unlike Europeans.
    That creates distorted perceptions, and the U.S.' relevance in Europe was badly exaggerated since '44 when they took six months to re-conquer (together with the British!) what the Germans had conquered in six weeks - and they did so only against a part of what the Soviets had left of the German army.

    In fact, U.S. military power was a minority in Europe during the Cold War. The U.S. military was a minority even in Western Germany (where they had almost all of their European army bases). Their share was only about a third, and this ignores the French troops who stood right behind the border.
    - - - - -
    Schröder doesn't work for Gazprom, he's member in a supervisory board in the Baltic Sea pipeline project company that's 51% owned by Gazprom (which is 6.5% owned by a German company) and 49% owned by German companies.
    I'm getting annoyed by latent accusations that Schröder is somehow a pro-Russian traitor when he merely helps to supervise a German-Russian project.
    Germany is sovereign and can build pipelines with whomever it wants.
    - - - - -
    My earlier poll data post was here

    The U.S. was merely at the same level as Italy, Spain and the UK - and way behind France in that poll.
    The surprisingly low overall levels are probably a result of lacking dedication on part of the Eastern Europeans. They didn't exactly focus on raising the issue in the Western European.
    Poland is better known for its uncooperative behaviour in the EU than for its security policy cooperation with continental Western European powers. Eastern Europeans rather confronted continental Western Europeans in security issues than top forge bonds.
    I mentioned that the Eastern Europeans were used by the Bush administration to divide Europe for good reason.
    - - - - -
    I assure you that German and French ground forces would outnumber U.S. forces on Polish battlefields in the first month, and later on the Americans would be outnumbered on the ground by combined European forces.
    The European air power suffices to defeat Russian air power as well.

  4. @Abukhaled:

    It's not a conspiracy, but a foreign political strategy.

    The Bush administration was supporting just about every nation in its desire to join the EU, knowing very well that the EU couldn't absorb them all well for economic, political and organizational reasons.

    The divisive "old Europe" affair wasn't exactly an accident.
    The U.S. security policy in Europe treated France, the UK, Eastern Europe and the others very differently.

    They counteracted policies of nations like France and Germany on issues that are much more relevant to Europe than to North America.

    Do you believe that the USA would like to see a unified Europe (with unified foreign policy) that defines the security environment near its borders no matter what the USA want it to look like?

    Of course they're divisive, and opposing the policies of several continental European powers.

    The current intra-NATO politics are the least terrible alternative, so of course there's some cooperation and lots of smiles on meetings.

  5. "its citizens are (much) more likely than Americans to at least know where countries like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania or Poland are located on a globe."

    Amusing, considering the SFB Europeons who can't find cities in their own countries!

    Your minimizing Schröder's complicity in Gazprom (both after and while in office) shows how vulnerable you feel about the subject, the truth is Germany and much of western Europe won't face up to Russia because they fear a sudden need for "pipeline shutdown for maintenance" some cold winter day.

    Eastern European leaders, many of whom are in the same energy dependent boat, recognize this, it's about time you did also. You can't really blame them, their countries are just regaining an independent footing, after being subjugated for years, courtesy of the Soviet Union, after that big shakeup back in the 40's, which was caused by which country?
    About the "downsizing of for example the Polish military", if the Poles looked West, they could be on the Côte d'Azur before the Bundeswehr could even hold a morning formation, so stop criticizing their militaries, there is more than enough to ciritcize about your own.
    "the U.S.' relevance in Europe was badly exaggerated since '44 when they took six months to re-conquer (together with the British!) what the Germans had conquered in six weeks - and they did so only against a part of what the Soviets had left of the German army."

    You might want to edit that, it seems you have no idea how ridiculous that really is.

  6. Get down on earth man... EE stick with USA because in reality NATO is run by USA. Of course it would be nice to have some strong EU common military defence, but there is no such thing now, and for sure there wasn't in 1999 or 1990. Beside USA is not so distant. In case you didn't notice one of the biggest USA military bases abroad is still in Germany. I think it is quite good geostrategic place to defend EE NATO members.

    "Schröder doesn't work for Gazprom" - that was good joke :-) Even in Germany there were doubts about his ethics after he get his fine new job...
    Yes, "Germany is sovereign and can build pipelines with whomever it wants", but it would be nice if Germany inform EE in early 2000', that EE should start build LPG terminals, because Russia could turn off land pipelines around 2010... After all Germany is in NATO too, so when Germany undermines energetic security of it's neighbours then few words of warning is not to much to ask...

  7. "its citizens are (much) more likely than Americans to at least know where countries like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania or Poland are located on a globe."

    that bit is funny because it's true =)

  8. @Mercator:
    Is it difficult to pile up that many mistakes in one comment? I guess so.

    The pipeline is still under construction. Several years advance warning through newspapers should really suffice.
    The Eastern Europeans claim that the new pipeline would allow the Russians to cut them off from supply but still supply Western Europe. Well, look at it the other way; the new pipeline prevents that the Eastern Europeans could steal gas and blackmail Russia to keep on supplying because they would otherwise cut off Western Europe from supply as well.

    Schröder's ethical quality was in doubt long before he left office, but elections are usually a choice of lesser evils.

  9. @Mercator (who proceeded with an insult and can forget about getting more comments published):

    Your list of mistakes.

    1) Statistical insignificance on your first point.

    2) About energy dependence; your assertion that Europe wouldn't face up to Russia bears any likeliness and is an assertion of impossible advance knowledge. It sounds like a dumb prejudice (and it is one IMO), not like an informed opinion.

    3) The energy dependence thing is actually much different than the primitive understanding that right wingnuts believe to have about it. I wrote about that a long time ago already.

    4) The 40's thing; Stalin was invading and annexing (partially or completely) Eastern European countries before the German-Soviet War and that would most likely have happened if there was no Hitler at all (most likely even more severe).

    5) Polish military & Cote d'Azur; the joke of the week. Their army is half as large as the German one (ignoring the Polish counterparts of Streitkräftebasis, which doesn't count into the Heer's personnel strength in Germany) and maybe worth a fourth as much. Their logistics wouldn't even extend to the Rhine.

    6) The history thing: Well, full failure. You cannot rewrite history, and my depiction was accurate.
    Ardennes offensive '40 to French armistice '40 = 6 weeks (advance to Normandy even quicker). Normandy invasion '44 till beginning of Ardennes offensive '44 = about 6 months (8 till the latter's end).
    German Army in II/44 and IV/44: In great part busy at Eastern Front, had most of its wartime losses there.

    Facts > trolls

  10. comment by "Axure", less some unaccepted remarks11 August 2009 at 23:54

    Eastern Europeans stealing gas? OK, so you're throwing all EE into one bag because Ukraine allegedly stole some gas in the middle of a row with Russia? Smaller size of army of a poorer country with half the population is sth strange? Cote d'Azur?

    Until I read this post and comments, I thought I've found an interesting blog.

  11. "trowing all EE in one bag":
    No need to be that excited. I laid out some legitimate interests that were ignored in the discussion.

    Many pipelines go through Belarus, a state with gas price conflict history as well. We don't need to trust their dictator.

    Furthermore: Blackmail with huge multinational levers isn't alien to EE. Look at what the Poles did in the EU. They joined and almost immediately began to blackmail the other members with the veto right that every member has.

    "Smaller size of army..."
    Simple; if you feel threatened and want to be protected by your Allies, you should signal how much you feel threatened by arming yourself appropriately. I think that's obvious.
    The Poles reduce(d) their army from conscript to professional - that's exactly the opposite of what you'd expect if they felt threatened by Russia. The other EE nations weren't really impressive in their conventional warfare preparations either.

    Cote d'Azur:
    Yes, that's nonsense. Look up who started it, please. It was Mercator.

    About those parts of your comment that I removed because of 0% facts and 100% offensiveness:
    I think you shouldn't get excited and have that many suspicions that quickly.
    Maybe the topic is emotionally important to you, but you need a cool head nevertheless.

    The world isn't always pleasant. Other people can have unpleasant opinion - that's no excuse for becoming offensive. Truth hurts at times as well.