The recent crisis in Georgia has revealed the impotence of ‘Old Europe’ and NATO. Is it time for something new to meet the needs of New Europe?
Deja vu all over again?
While Russian tanks were crossing through the tunnels and passes (memo to Georgia: everyone knows you blow up the tunnels and bridges first), the leaders of Western Europe were basically caught with nothing to do. ”They haven’t shot at me” was basically the point that was on the mind of every Western European leader, followed quickly by “I don’t want to go nuclear over Georgia”. These two factors (not, in any way, who was right or who was wrong) were what kept most European leaders sitting on their hands as they watched Georgia get chewed to pieces.
When we used to study Soviet Military Power and Doctorine it was always assumed that the first time a Soviet tank went on the offensive it would be shooting at a NATO tank, and thus the decision to start fighting back would be off the table. Some 18-year-old kid in the turret of a tank somewhere in Germany was going to decide NATO’s response to a Soviet conventional attack. But in this new world, that ease of red force/blue force decision making is gone, and we’re stuck in the grey area.
You can find some contrast in the response of Europe if you take a look at the leaders of ‘New Europe. Composed of former Soviet states they were not afraid in the least to mess with the Bear, for they knew what awaited them should their countries fall back into the ’sphere of influence’. Ukraine has told the Black Sea fleet they can expect problems when they return, and leaders of many former Soviet republics flew into Georgia in the middle of the fight to provide counsel and assistance. Some in the Eastern European media are even asking if Old Europe really understands what is going on:
“Old Europe,” once again, failed to listen to the warnings of those with first-hand knowledge of Russian treachery. “Old Europe isn’t listening to Poles, Lithuanians and Ukrainians. Old Europe doesn’t want to anger Russia, and doesn’t see the integrity of Georgia’s borders as something worth risking its relationship with Moscow over,” the left-leaning daily Gazeta Wyborcza wrote. “Once again, we can only try to tell them that we’re not letting our feelings be guided by Russophobia but merely speaking from long years of personal experience.”
Unfortunately New Europe is pretty weak and the US is pretty busy elsewhere in the world. So it has me wondering if now is the time for a new, mini-version of NATO. Composed of the Eastern European states (and armed and supported by Old Europe). A NATO that does not have nukes and is not a nuclear threat to Russia, but one that is well equipped, trained, and ready to take on the Bear should it come poking around it’s old stomping grounds. A force like this might be the one needed to stop an aggressive and growing threat.
One by one, the old Soviet empire could be rebuilt by a resurgent Russia and a placid NATO. Georgia, Ukraine, Lativa, Estonia, etc. They could fall without most Americans even noticing to be quite honest. But if they fought together, they might actually have a chance. Perhaps it is time for New Europe to look for a new alliance to help them in the new reality they now face.