Donald Trump Mikhail Gorbachev
April 16, 2016.
By Jay B. Brennan
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for a reassessment of the usefulness of NATO, the military organization established in 1949 after World War 2 to work to protect the peace in Western Europe. In the life of NATO, its mission to guarantee freedom and democracy, anchored on representative government, became salient as a counterweight to the Soviet led Warsaw Pact.
At the end of the war, Stalin envisaged a communist empire stretching from the Soviet Union to the rest of Europe. The countries liberated from Nazi Germany by Soviet troops were made to adhere to communism as a state ideology and compelled to be part of political and military organizations in furtherance of the communist cause.
The Warsaw Pact came into being in 1955 as a military counter balance to NATO to deter aggression in Eastern Europe and to protect the international communist project. The Pact engaged in controversial military actions to squelch opposition to communist rule. It invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, and crushed an uprising in Hungary in 1956. For decades, NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations faced each other across the Iron Curtain of Europe, each protecting its ideology and way of life—the Soviets, their communist way of life and NATO, capitalism and representative government.
While The Soviet economy stagnated from high military spending, costly subsidies of inefficiently run state industries, an aggressive foreign policy which drained the state of enormous resources used to prop up communist regimes around the world, and a disastrous war in Afghanistan, embarked upon in support of a communist regime in the conservative Islamic nation, NATO countries prospered.
The old cadre of Soviet leadership, stuck in the debilitating ideologies of the Cold War, gradually passed away, and this paved the way for Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev to take the reins of power. Moving rapidly, he introduced Glasnost, which called for openness in the excessively monitored society. He pushed forth a program of economic and bureaucratic reform known as perestroika. But there was one other thing Gorbachev pushed for and it was for a new relationship with NATO member nations that would eliminate the military standoff between NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
Gorbachev envisaged a world without NATO and the Warsaw Pact. In February 1991, he presided over the formal dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, a highly courageous move which made him enemies on the right flank of Russian politics. Gorbachev thought the West would reciprocate by disbanding NATO as well, but that did not happen to his great chagrin. His greatest regret he often says till today is the failure of the leaders of NATO to go along with his vision of ending the face off in Europe by getting rid of NATO as he had the Warsaw Pact.
But Gorbachev’s dream may actually be realized should Trump be elected President. Trump has complained about the cost of maintaining the alliance, which the US substantially funds. It is estimated that 75% of the NATO budget is funded by the US. Interestingly, Trump seems to have a similarity of mind with Gorbachev in espousing the obsolescence of NATO. Twenty five years after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact Gorbachev may find an ally in a President Trump, should he win and proceed to send NATO the way of the Warsaw Pact. Trump’s argument has generated vociferous reactions from proponents of the alliance, including President Obama and leaders of Western Europe. They contend that NATO has kept the peace in Europe and so far has prevented another destructive war on the scale of the 2 world wars which started in Europe. Disbanding it would be dangerous and foolish. It’s shaping up to be very interesting times should Trump win the Presidency.