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A Grave Threat to the NATO Alliance (And It's Not Russia's Military)

November 13, 2014 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Even as NATO adopts a confrontational policy toward Moscow reminiscent of the chilliest days of the Cold War, the Alliance faces multiple internal problems. Doubts remain about whether members are willing to match their strong rhetoric regarding Russia and other security challenges with substantive upgrades to their military capabilities. In the aftermath of the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea and its continued support for secessionists in eastern Ukraine, promises of greater efforts surged, especially from Poland and the Baltic republics—the countries most at risk if Russia turns aggressively expansionist. But we’ve heard such promises before. At the 2006 NATO summit, all members pledged to devote at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product to defense. Eight years later, only the United States, Britain, Greece and Estonia among the twenty-eight member states fulfill that commitment. There is scant evidence that the new round of paper promises will fare any better.

There are also major fissures within the Western camp about how to deal with Russia. Washington successfully pressured its allies to impose economic sanctions, but there is a noticeable lack of enthusiasm for that course among some NATO governments. Czech Republic prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka, for example, warns that while sanctions weaken Russia’s economy and harm ordinary Russians, they are unlikely to change the Kremlin’s behavior regarding Ukraine or other issues.

Another development that has received less media attention, but could prove extremely disruptive to NATO is the emergence of ugly authoritarian trends in some members, especially Romania, Hungary and Turkey. Romania’s outgoing president, Traian Basescu, has accused his political rival and possible successor, Prime Minister Victor Ponta, of having been an undercover officer for the country’s spy agency in the late 1990s. It was merely the latest allegation of dubious conduct by prominent officials and opinion leaders in ostensibly democratic Romania.

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Beware of the emergence of ugly authoritarian trends in some members, especially Romania, Hungary and Turkey.”

Evidence of undemocratic behavior in Romania is mild, though, compared to developments in Hungary. U.S. officials are beginning to express alarm at the apparent authoritarianism and corruption enveloping Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government. Orban has conducted a crackdown on human-rights groups that is not far removed from the behavior of Vladimir Putin’s regime. One of Orban’s targets is the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, which, ironically, had supported …read more

Source: OP-EDS