Leaving NATO?

I've held this back for a long time, but thus also thought about it for a long time:

Let's say a great power in NATO turns fascist. Should Germany leave NATO and rely on the EU as its defensive alliance?

There's little doubt in my opinion that a fully neutral Germany would break NATO's backbone in Europe. There would be no West-East land connection for NATO logistics in Central Europe without Germany. A neutral area would stretch from the Baltic Sea to the Western Alps. Northern Italian ports would become the primary ports for moving Western European and North American troops into NE Europe, such as a Baltic or Poland defence scenario. There would be a bottleneck south of Austria, too. Balkan ports such as Thessaloniki would be a fine choice for defence of Romania, but be terribly distant from NE Europe.
Thus German neutrality would make a huge impact due to geography in itself. A defence of NE European NATO would suddenly not hinge on quick reinforcement (as I wrote in many posts before), but on what's already in the region. Reinforcements would arrive very late (most of them about 2 weeks later that with status quo) save for weak air-lifted forces. The only effective alternative to prepositioned forces would be prepositioned equipment (POMCUS-style).

Germany would not become truly neutral if it left NATO, of course; it would still be a member of the EU and thus remain allied with the same countries in NE Europe.

Now let's look at the pro and contra, in a short form:

Pro leaving NATO in the event of a fascist great power in NATO:

This essentially boils down to (save for ethical reasons) what I wrote before;
You may get into trouble if you are and stay allied with an aggressive power. A fascist great power would likely fit this description (though Fascist Spain wasn't aggressive).

Another reason for leaving is actually a permanent one, true regardless of the allies; Germany needs no allies. It's surrounded by friends, and even Russia is in no way a realistic threat to a neutral Germany. In fact, a case can be made that being allied increases the risk of war and thus of suffering for Germans.

There's also the thing about the EU; whatever assistance Germans want to give to Eastern Europeans could be given through EU membership. NATO is kind of superfluous for deterrence and defence in Europe against Eastern European and Mediterranean neighbours, at least from a level-headed German perspective.

Contra leaving NATO in the event of a fascist great power in NATO:

The main argument was laid out here before
Without NATO a bond between Europeans and North Americans (particularly the U.S.) would be cut, but this bond may be the only thing (certainly it is the most influential thing) that keeps the two continents from developing rivalry and antagonistic behaviour. The U.S. spies on many of its European allies as if they were hostile powers even with this kind of alliance in effect. There sure are many issues that drive a wedge between Europe and North America, and it's the alliance that keeps the bloc together.
Right now below 2% GDP military spending is plenty for deterrence and defence of Europe even without American support, but we would need to go past 3% GDP if we were to orient our deterrence and defence AGAINST the U.S., probably more if we began to play great power games AGAINST the U.S. in Asia and North Africa.
Germany dropping out of NATO would not cut this bond, but fracture it. It would also fail Kant's categorical imperative test; it would be unethical to leave it up to the other Europeans to keep that antagonism-preventing bond intact.

- - - - -

The idea of leaving NATO is impractical politically, of course. The far left in Germany would love such a move, but even the greens would most likely betray their own rhetoric of three decades (again) if such a move was really up for a vote. Social Democrats wouldn't see any reason to leave and Christian Democrats would make a most determined stand; after all, NATO member ship and the whole integration with the West was their idea, their (and the FRG's) grand strategy for 60+ years.

Furthermore, there's a network of "transatlantic" journalists, news media editors and think tanks that are resolutely pro-NATO, even pro-U.S.. It's a well-organised lobby and it would produce a storm of outrage if any non-green, non-deep red top politician even only uttered the idea of leaving NATO. A fascist great power in NATO would NOT change this. They would no doubt promote sitting this out.

- - - - -

Well, what to do in such a hypothetical event?

I suppose we should draw the lesson from history for real (not only drawing lessons from 12 particular years) and take note that we sure need to do the opposite of what was done in 1914:
We should publicly declare that we do not support or condone aggressive behaviour. 

No two-faced charade as in 2002/2003 when Chancellor Schröder weakly condemned the war of aggression against Iraq, but supported it indirectly.
Furthermore, we should call out all aggressive behaviour as a violation of North Atlantic Treaty obligations, publicly and strongly so. Everyone shall understand that the bad ally isn't the one who refuses to attack a sovereign country, but the one who does attack a sovereign country. The former is an obligation under the North Atlantic Treaty, the latter is a violation of the same.

In case that fascism settles and lasts for more than a few years in a NATO great power because democracy was defeated, we should cut our ties with it. This would even require leaving the EU if fascism takes hold in a European great power. We could invite all non-fascist EU members to a "EU 2.0" treaty afterwards.



  1. Who would turn fascist - the U.S? You watch too much Maher, Daily Show Colbert.

  2. Where "fascism" conveniently means "whoever opposes our current political goals".

    1. The ultimate authority on the meaning of words is the author's.
      Do your own
      ' "defence and freedom" AND fascism '
      google search if you like. It appears the last time I used this word in 2007 - in a rant about inflationary use of words; I clearly don't use it lightly.



  3. The main purpose of NATO is to provide stability in Europe. The EU has a similar but only civilian role, as IRL EU is not a collective defence agreement, no matter what was written down is some long-forgotten document (Brussels excels in writing statements with little resemblence to reality).

    If NATO ceased to exist, smaller Eastern European countries would be easy meal for Russia to subjugate and oppress. Germany may or may not be too much for Russia to take on directly, but instead of democratic allies Germany would face basket case dictatorships to the east.

  4. Comment -1.

    Trumpistan is in the making. Big pro-Trump party about to start in Moscows bar (by ABC Moscow correspondent Patrick Reevell.)

    Anonymous commenter got it right.

  5. Germany is a small country. Neutrality means opposition to a major fascist power and would require a Swiss to Israel like militarization of society. Despite the contract, I doubt the EU is being considered as such a treaty by people in its member states. This would allow for violations of the defense agreement included in the treaty. NATO is a defense agreement, because people make it, not because of what is written. I think you have a systemic bias, believing in the letters of contracts in foreign politics. Take a Chinese point of view: "A contract is a good starting point for negotiations." The refugee crisis showed the fault lines in Europe quite clearly and I do not expect a defense emergency without US support to play out differently above national level. Finland made it through WWII as a democracy, so there were options, even back then. Germany has no maritime access to sea lines of communication secured by a naval presence to play opposition. It will be forced to align sooner or later, because it is a central part of the banana region. Currently, the US, UK and Poland drift in the same direction together towards Russia and we better have a working agreement with all of them. Morality on a high horse would get Germany eliminated in case of widespread neo-fascism going on wars. This is no country with the military strength to make such choices, all that is possible is to preserve their own way of getting things done. There are no significant democratic allies left if the US stops being a democracy. So democracy once again in history is replaced by different systems, expect for possible tiny pockets that realize the distribution of power and survive.

    1. What bias?
      I'm used to the rule of law, in which the text of contracts has much meaning, and thus also the text of treaties. I'm also used to freedom of speech. Hence I feel free to accuse those who are unreliable of unreliability.

      The March 2010 post on the EU Vertrag's alliance article doesn't exactly claim that most people consider the EU to be an alliance.

    2. S O

      I'm not following you here.

      Are you suggesting your idea would work if NATO failed? What if your ideas concerning the EU are wrong. What if it fractures into national self interest? How would that effect a German course of action?

      How much risk would Germany be taking to gamble that you are correct. To me the history of Europe suggests a different ending than yours. I see Eastern European countries such as Poland seeing neutral Germany as a vassal state of Russia.

      I already see France moving to take the U.S. leadership position in Europe. At this point I don't see Germany, no matter what it decides to do, being surrounded by friendly countries. They might not be enemies now but history shows how that can change in a short time.

      In my opinion your course of action will make Germany into a problem for all of Europe.

    3. I think my line of thought here wouldn't be uncommon by the time when a NATO great power has become solidly fascist. It just looks unusual now. The security architecture of NATO can and would be changed with additional elements, so there's little point in looking at this in a ceteris paribus style (for once).

  6. "I'm used to the rule of law" does not apply to interstate relationships, only within a state. States are focused on interests. It is a bias to believe that the rule of law can be applied to interstate relationships and that any contract is binding. Laws are open to powerplay as long as there is no enforcing authority or aligned interest of having reliable interactions. German history shows contracts and treason during two world wars...

    1. Well, Americans are great at complaining about how other nations don't meet entirely fictitious obligations. I suppose it's perfectly legit when I complain about actual, signed and ratified obligations not being met.

      The fact that such obligations are routinely disregarded is the point, not a reason to not make the point.

      Similarly, I think a "mündige Bürger" (~competent citizen) should at least be aware of us having actually two alliance treaties in force, and so should foreigners with much interest in military affairs.

    2. Controversial German law theorist Carl Schmitt made key distinction between state`s law and international law - back in sixtees.

      If there is no global hegemon in international system ("great power space") as an enforcer, then all what`s left is some vague "customary law" inter pares, Schmitt wrote. (Sovereigns beeing in "natural state" between themselves...)

      "Rest of the West" - unlike Schmitt - can see project of liberal democratic international order (with Trump victory it`s just exploding on global level) as more than mere "disguise of American world hegemony" - and certainly we wanted to see and do it that way. But there is still the point to the aforementioned argument.

      International law, alliances included, always need enforcer(s) - legit or not, that`s different question. That`s why only (not so) smart power, soft power, non-enforcing Obama lost his "reset" with Russia badly. And also his "legacy" Iran JCPOA will go down soon, Trump or not. Revisionist powers don`t want rule-based international order. Just power-based.

      Sometimes alliance written on paper exist just on that paper only, as for example Czechs really should know - after Munich Agreement in 1938 and after August 1968 "friendly" invasion.

      I studied Polish documents written by office of former president Kaczyński (who was probably assasinated in Smolensk - otherwise Moscow would give plane remains to Warsaw long ago, and today we just learned about traces of TNT in wreck...) for defense policy back in 2008. There was much distrust to NATO integrity even in these old days.

      There was collapsing European trust horizon even in 2008.

      So lets face it: There will be no rule-based international order in "illiberal" Europe if relatively decent potentially hegemonic Germany (in Western and Central Europe at least) chooses to stay "neutral". Russia and China sense power vacuum in Europe and they are pushing hard.

      If Le Pen stays in opposition, German partnership with France is certainly possible.

      I personally don`t like for example Merkels Greek policy, but again: You may enforce good rules, legit or not - or bad rules. You can do it smart, or not so smart. - Or you can choose to don`t enforce at all and be object of unscrupulous policy of other powers, as Obama did.

      And if this is the case, R.I.P. "free international trade in Europe", R.I.P. EU project. We will see full-scale protectionist and nationalist revival.

    3. Well, even states are mere imaginations, and so is the power of treaties.

      But there's tit for tat, and game theory doesn't exactly propose that a treaty member that knows about his partner's disrespect for the treaty should keep respecting the same. Nor does it propose to conclude new treaties with said partner. In fact, it's not so much the legal enforcement by agents of the law but the reputation that makes contracts useful. Break a contract - your contract partner will tell others and they won't do business with you without additional effort on your part (securities).

      That Article 42 in the Treaty of the EU may become powerful if more people know about it and learn to respect it - but that requires that those who know it disseminate this knowledge.
      Article 1 of North Atlantic Treaty is largely unknown and not followed - but it sure is satisfying for short moments to counter American demands that Europeans meet imaginary obligations with a demand that Americans (and British, French, Polish) meet their actual obligations.

      I proposed that we Europeans need a forum and discussion on defence without much American involvement to keep out the American perspective that drowns any other one. This is one such issue; just about every American with whom I talked about the issue thinks that we don't live up to our mil spending obligations though actually none such exist. meanwhile, they're oblivious to the fact that they don't live up to their obligation to be nonconfrontational.

      I'm pushing against a torrent, but this at least passes the Kant's Imperative test.

    4. Yes, game theory. It`s theory. And it needs empirical tests.

      Every Ukrainian or Syrian "ceasefire agreement" with Russia goes to hell in just few hours. But Kerry - and even worse, much more conciliatory Herr Steinmeier - everytime goes to Moscow to exemplify Einsteins definition of madness (repeat the same procedure and expect different results).

      It seems to me that this specific game theory thesis keeps to be falsified every few months. It`s just as abstract as theory of state, IMO. But almost every man lives in state; that`s an imagination, which is real at least in its consequences. Everybody`s acting as if state is tangible reality.

      On the other side, very unsuccessful American bussinessman without reputation was just elected to WH.

    5. The thing about the ceasefires is more complicated. Most ceasefires are rackets, and in fact the Russian acceptance of ceasefires confirms the importance of reputation - it's just not about the Russian reputation among Ukrainians.

    6. Sven, it certainly confirms nothing like that. Most of the time, Russian so called ceasefire confirms the importance to give Western leaders some bait, some opportunity to "do something about that in comedy for domestic voters", or to have some kind of operational pause and opportunity to concentrate forces for attack, like before the Ilovaysk operation.

      Business logic idealized by theory of rational actor is basically for people trying to convince you that they are honest in some fair deal. There is completely different logic in the street gang culture extended to state level.

      If I am a gangster and can succesfully cheat you or bully you once, it means for me that you are fool or chicken and I can do that again and again. In the business model of companies like Schicklgruber & Dzhugashvili it is only your fault.

      Even in domestic policy, theory of rational actor is really bad predictor, if you do mostly with authoritarian personalities dependent on some Ersatzvaterfigur.

      For example Czech president lies almost on everyday basis, four courts convinced him as liar. But in the end, it really dosn`t matter - about 2/3 of Czechs generally trust him because of his völkisch rhetoric.

    7. There's actually a post on ceasefires in the pipeline, it'll cover this anyway.

  7. There is now Czech draft constitutional law in the pipeline - concerning referendum about leaving NATO, via article 13.

    Sponsors are communists MPs, including their only one so called "reformist" and including one policeman of old regime, which in 1989 beated demonstrants.

    http://www.psp.cz/doc/00/11/02/00110224.pdf (in Czech)