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Is Estonia Worth a War?

April 10, 2014 in Economics

By Justin Logan

Justin Logan

No one near the levers of power in Washington suggested that Ukraine’s territorial integrity was worth risking a war with Russia. That stark reality offers an opportunity to evaluate U.S. alliances. Which European countries should the United States be willing to go to war with Russia over?

It’s an important question, given that Washington has a formal treaty commitment to a number of countries that are less strategically important than Ukraine. Since no one in Washington favored fighting for Ukrainian sovereignty, would they really threaten it over, say, Estonia, just because the latter is a NATO member? Does the existence of an alliance commitment create an interest worth going to war over?

Which European countries should the United States be willing to go to war with Russia over?”

Over the second half of the twentieth century, the United States steadily accumulated allies. During the Cold War, we gathered allies in the name of containing the Soviet Union. After the Cold War, Washington parlayed its winnings, expanding its sphere of influence. In Europe, two rounds of NATO expansion brought the anti-Russian alliance up to the Russian border, accompanied by promises that NATO was no longer about Russia. Globally, more than a quarter of the world’s countries are now allies of the United States.

The early Cold War rationale was strong. Leaving Germany vulnerable to the Soviet Union risked allowing Moscow to dominate Europe. But that’s not going to happen today, with or without NATO. If Russia annexed all of Ukraine and seamlessly integrated it into the Russian Federation without a hitch—something that’s not going to happen—the Russian economy would be about 14 percent larger, equivalent roughly to that of Italy and Turkey combined.

Given that Russia could not threaten Western Europe, or even most of Central Europe, it’s hard to argue that the United States has a similar interest in threatening wars to defend most of its modern-day NATO protectorates. War with Russia would be devastating for the United States, for the country on whose territory such a war would be fought, and for Russia. Allowing a state to be pulled into the Russian sphere of influence would be less costly to U.S. taxpayers and servicemembers—and likely even to citizens of the targeted state itself—than fighting over it.

It’s thus tempting to judge that NATO expansion was one giant bluff, but it’s probably more accurate to say that Washington …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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