Much of northern Greece is on fire as deadly infernos in areas to the northwest of Athens have already taken 79 lives. The Greek Interior Minister Panos Skourletis has described the situation as a “national disaster”. While it might not seem pertinent to recall that Greece has been a member of NATO since 1952, this actually is instructive in understanding why NATO is not only no longer fit for purpose but how it has consistently failed to secure the citizens of its member states against realistic threats.
Since 1991, NATO’s initial purpose of defending central, western and parts of southern Europe from a “Soviet attack” has become redundant. The USSR no longer exists and many members of the pro-Soviet alliance Warsaw Pact are now part of NATO, even though George W. Bush once promised the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand to the east.
With even US President Donald Trump now openly asking what the purpose of NATO is in the 21st century, the answer should be clear. NATO should not be sent to slaughter Serbs, Libyans, Syrians or others and nor should NATO mass troops on Russia’s borders based on the shrieks of the eastern European political far-right. NATO should instead re-orientate itself as a group ready to fight the actual threats to the security of its members:
NATO was quick in hurrying to bomb Libya in 2011, so much so that the nation rapidly transformed from Africa’s richest country to a failed state built on a terrorist training camp. Many parts of the former Yugoslavia have still yet to economically recover from NATO’s war against a rump Yugoslavia in 1999. Likewise, while the US, Britain and France scrambled their resources to bomb Syria in April of this year, the group instead should have been focused on protecting the citizens of its own member states.
NATO has it within its budget and within its power to send multiple squadrons of fire-fighting aircraft and vehicles to Greece in order to attempt and save lives and infrastructure as much as possible. The 79 Greeks who have perished in the inferno were never threatened by Slobodan Milošević, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad or Vladimir Putin but many more remain threatened by one of the worst nature disasters in recent southern European history.
NATO owes it to its members to secure their well-being against imminent dangers and with a summer of record heat in Europe threatening the welfare of ordinary people at record levels, NATO should be focused on helping to secure the safety of those threatened in Greece and elsewhere by natural disasters which ultimately can be contained if the right technology and manpower is deployed at the right time and right place.
Instead of developing bombs to rain fire on civilians in the Arab world and parts of the Slavic world, NATO could and should develop fire fighting tools that can be dropped form the air on large areas of smouldering terrain. The fires in Greece which tragically continue to burn should be a wake-up call to NATO that it can have a purpose in the 21st century and this purpose should be protecting the citizens of its member states from the actual threats to their survival. Any other course of action represents a clear dereliction of duty on the part of all NATO states, but particularly among the most powerful ones.