Dying Breed

From the Washington Post comes this story on NATO enlargement and re-structuring:

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization appears set to embrace a radically new military posture and strategy that would profoundly alter the shape and mission of the world’s most significant military alliance, according to NATO officials here and government officials in a half-dozen European capitals.

What makes NATO politically significant in Europe is that every major nation, bar Russia, is a member. But what about militarily?

When it comes to out-of-area combat power, the only NATO nation that still counts is the United States (and to a much lesser degree, the UK and France). The Wehrmacht could trample Poland for sure, but Berlin doesn’t have the power to project force beyond Continental Europe without US permission and assistance. Ditto for Italy, Spain, and pretty much everyone but France’s paratroops and Britain’s Royal Navy and Royal Marines.

But here’s the exciting new idea from NATO HQ:

Most dramatically, the NATO heads of government could announce creation of a multi-national rapid deployment force of about 21,000 troops that would allow NATO to operate quickly and effectively against new enemies far from Europe, the area NATO was formed to protect against the Soviet Union 53 years ago. NATO members may also announce commitments to acquire new aircraft and equipment that would make this an effective force and allow it to deploy on a week’s notice.

Dramatic? I don’t think so. Europe, with more people and more money than the US, thinks maybe it can muster 21,000 for rapid deployment?

Left unmentioned is that that tiny force would have out-of-date weaponry, a laughable command structure, culture barriers, and zero political will to fix any of these problems. That’s assuming the plan even gets off the ground.

All this talk is just talk, and designed to “scare” the US into paying more attention to the wants and needs of Paris, Berlin, and Brussels. “We might not be strong today, but you’ll need our Rapid Deployment Force tomorrow, so you’d better listen up on Iraq, buddy.”

NATO still has heft in large part because the US maintains two divisions and lots of air power and logistical support there. Many of those units are being redeployed to the Middle East, much as they were in 1991. I’d be surprised if many of them ever returned, so with their exit we’ll see the end of NATO’s vitality.

What you’re hearing from Brussels are the playground boasts of a skinny kid who has no intention of ever fighting — he just wants to be noticed.