Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
It seems to me that the continued existence of NATO is largely a reflection of the incomplete consolidation of the E.U. Since "Europe" is still only a loose collection of a couple of dozen countries, each with an independent foreign policy and defense policy, it's wide open for NATO to provide a unifying structure--one that happens to be mostly controlled by the U.S.

The weird thing is that the U.S. has more economic ties to the Pacific region now than it does Europe. http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/statistics/highlights/top/top0812yr.html
So there is probably not a really strong underlying reason for the U.S. to keep NATO going. We would be better off spending our energy working with China and Japan to get our relationships in that direction under control, and let Europe worry about Europe. But since there's no big push from Europe to develop an alternative, NATO continues...

A quiet and passive thrall is the best type to have.

by asdf on Thu Feb 26th, 2009 at 10:17:22 AM EST
There's certainly an element of institutional inertia and a lack of a push to a clear alternative, although Lisbon contains some very tentative steps in that direction.  NATO perhaps also allows Europe to keep defence expenditure lower and there would probably be a big push to end  NATO if the US insisted European countries pay the full economic cost of the US presence here.

There is also the soft option card being played.  It is very easy for Ireland to be anti-NATO when there is no prospect of  a Russian invasion or attack on Ireland, and very easy to be anti a strong EU defence policy if that means Ireland doesn't have to pay any part of the costs and the real cost of European security is borne by NATO or the major EU states.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Feb 26th, 2009 at 10:34:47 AM EST
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