With the current economic crisis hitting all over the world and the sabre rattling from Russia, Germany has been placed into a keystone role with how NATO can operate. There is interest to allow Ukraine and Georgia membership into NATO but the German Chancellor, Merkel, has clearly stated that Germany will oppose even putting these countries on the path to membership. Why?
A simple answer is that Germany is heavily dependent on Russia’s natural gas. If Russia were to take offense (likely) to a NATO expansion to include these two countries, then it could cut off that supply causing serious energy problems for Germany. But it’s more complicated. There is no effective way for NATO or the U.S. by itself to ensure military protection for Ukraine or Georgia in the event of Russian aggression. Clearly, the NATO countries would exercise all diplomatic means to do so, but without a significant increase in defense spending, there is no way for NATO countries to effectively support such protection.
So, with an irritated, aggressive Russian only one country away (Poland), Germany faces a tough strategic decision. Germany would likely support other NATO countries, that mainly being the U.S., the ability to deploy via Germany to protect the Balkans, but they have little interest or benefit to form the front line against any Russian military threat. Any real ability for the U.S. or NATO to project forces to the east will require Germany, so NATO, in effect, has been reduced to a diplomatic, proclamation-bound entity.
What will that leave as options for the next President?
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