By Taylor-Jo Russo, Staff Writer
On Thursday, Feb. 28th, the Eisenhower Institute hosted a panel discussion on “The Role of NATO in U.S. and European Security” as a part of the Undergraduate Fellows program at EI. The policy debate on NATO featured three different and distinguished panelists and a notable moderator. The discussion was meant to let different policy makers and affiliates offer their insights on the security aspect of NATO and deliberate on a greater level than its surface.
Col. Christine Stark, a retired military police officer, was the moderator of the debate in charge of maintaining structure and fundamentally mediating the three panelists who had differences in opinion. Col. Stark encouraged students to think about the way they would re-imagine NATO during the talk, in a way to place yourself in their shoes.
The first to present their opinion and argument was Col. Mark Bucknam, USAF retiree and current professor of National Security Strategy and Course Director at the National War College. Bucknam argued that not only is NATO necessary and successful, but also that the U.S. should further press its NATO allies to doing more in NATO that being through economics and involvement. He added that it is necessary for the U.S. to be the leader and stand up, because no other country will.
E. Wayne Merry, a senior fellow for Europe and Eurasia at the American Foreign Policy Council, was next to present his contrasting opinion. Merry based his argument off President Eisenhower’s initial wants for NATO, where Eisenhower hoped the U.S. would be out of Europe within ten years, whereas we obviously are not. Merry believes the U.S. involvement in Europe and NATO in general is creating psychological dependency, where he compared it to giving someone crutches and never taking them away, leaving them with the crutches for life. He believes it is necessary for the U.S. to remove the crutches and reform the transatlantic relationship by removing the current European mentality where Europeans view NATO as an economic interest and instead encourage respect from the Europeans to the European Union.
The third to present his opinion was Col. Robert Colella, USAF retiree and adjunct professor at the Naval War College. Colella primarily believes that NATO is beneficial, however agrees it needs significant reform. He theorizes that the strong continue to do what they can, while the weak continue to do what they must, therefore the strong should help the weak in the most efficient way possible. Colella understands that the winds are shifting out of favor for NATO, however he doesn’t think the question is whether NATO should change, rather will NATO reform while it can?
The panelists then had the chance to address each other’s arguments. Bucknam started by countering Merry’s perspective stating that Europe is not developed enough to remove ourselves. He continued by saying NATO is more valuable than the security aspect, but also in economics, as well and that should not be disregarded. Merry asked why the U.S. must provide protection for small economic benefits. He ended by saying the U.S. is lucky to be a continent and an island because on the North and South we are bordered by weak countries, where on the East and West we are bordered by fish. Colella finished the discussion by suggesting if we remove ourselves Europe will result to developing nuclear weapons, therefore the focus should be on adding members to NATO and altering the landscape.