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Niles North High School | Skokie, IL

North Star News

Niles North High School | Skokie, IL

North Star News

Times are changing, NATO needs to be prepared for military conflict

Image created by Henry Rothenbach
NATO’s military remains too small to be properly prepared for future conflicts.

Tensions continue to rise around the world with military conflicts breaking out and conflicts that have been present for decades continue to rage. And as the world slowly destabilizes, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) passively watches and fails to prepare for the possibility of conflict reaching it; instead opting to supply Ukraine from the sidelines.

The vast majority of NATO, despite seeing Putin’s determination to expand his borders, a European far-right movement that has been growing for a decade, China pushing its limits in the South China Sea, and Iran publically developing its first nuclear weapons, has remained unresponsive and has clearly failed to ensure the security of the alliance and its allies. The few countries that seem to actually be upping their militaries in any way are all NATO members in Eastern Europe and Germany. Though in Germany’s case, it isn’t the government it’s the munitions producer Rheinmetall which plans to significantly up its production in the coming years as it has been trying to do since the conflict in Ukraine broke out.

As of 2023, only eleven of the thirty countries in NATO meet the minimum defense spending budget of 2 percent of their GDP. Poland currently leads defense spending with 3.80 percent of their GDP being spent on defense. Though Eastern Europe has done a fantastic job at increasing their military spending, the primary major powers of Europe are who need to follow. Germany, France, and The United Kingdom represent the three most important and strongest countries in Europe excluding The Russian Federation. Germany has shown that it clearly has the ingenuity to invent and produce effective weapons that are easy enough to use that countries round the world purchase. The primary examples being the Leopard 2A7, the only Main Battle Tank in the world that can give the American M1 Abrams a run for its money. And the self propelled artillery piece designated the Panzerhaubitze 2000 both of which have seen action in Ukraine proving their combat effectiveness. The United Kingdom during the war on terror had proved itself an influential military power but has since lost such standing to the point where the army is so small that during a time of war they would have to call the public to help them fight said conflict. France has also proved its ability to invent new weapons of war and work together with other powers, Germany being the prime example, the develop new next-gen weapons. French President Emanuel Macron has also demonstrated a will to fight the Russians. The lack of fear and strength Macron has shown is unlike anything any other country has been able to accomplish.

As it stands, NATO is extremely reliant on the United States for defense. The U.S. has not only the strongest army in the world, but four of the five biggest air forces in the world. In the event of NATO being dragged into a greater conflict, it is very likely that the U.S. would, despite being an ocean away, be on the frontlines with the rest of NATO following closely behind. NATO has a combined military size of 3.5 million. 2 million of that comes from the U.S., leaving only 1.5 million soldiers coming from Europe and Canada. For comparison, at the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the French army alone was 1.3 million strong. It takes the entirety of European NATO to make an army the size of the French army 110 years ago. This demonstrates how dependent NATO is on the U.S. in the event of a conflict. NATO, as it stands, simply lacks the manpower to properly wage a war without the U.S. and it’s that kind of dependency on the U.S. that could be the end of NATO if such a conflict does arise.

If NATO fails to raise an up-to-date modern army then events such as the Russian action in Ukraine could begin to happen more often. NATO has demonstrated to Putin that it will not do a single thing militarily against a conflict taking place in a neighboring nation. If NATO does not take a stand and does not show that it will respond to aggression then what’s to stop Putin from waging war in Armenia, or Kazakhstan, or any of the former Soviet bloc nations. Putin pushed his luck by invading Ukraine, and it is now very clear not just to Putin, but to the world that NATO is too scared to act in the defense of the European continent. The tensions between NATO and Russia have created a miniature cold-war except in this cold war, Russia is expanding and learning lessons from current conflicts while NATO sits around and politely requests that Putin please stop waging war.

It would take little effort for Western and Central Europe to meet the minimal spending budget that is supposedly required for NATO membership. 2% of a country’s GDP is a realistic task that nations could meet if they truly felt the need to protect themselves. This is a known fact because the very same effect has been seen in Eastern Europe with Eastern European nations upping military spending in response to Russian action in Ukraine.

Putin’s Russia is not the only threat arising in the world, nations like China, North Korea, and Iran, all could pose a threat in the near future and it is imperative that NATO has the ability to fend off any foreign power. Especially in the cases of North Korea and Iran, two countries with madmen dictators with access to nuclear weapons. NATO has influence outside Europe and North America, and if NATO is to retain that influence then a large army to protect its member nations and distant allies in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Commonwealth nations around the world is necessary.

It could be argued that suddenly upping the militaries of the strongest military alliance in the world could have the unintended effect of provoking hostile nations into waging war. Though if a nation chooses to go to war because it thinks NATO is too scary, then they likely would have waged that same war at some point regardless. It is to my understanding that currently there is a very popular anti-war and anti-military sentiment in the West. But I truly believe that a strong military is and always will be necessary to protect peace from those who wish to destroy it for their own gain. It is also imperative that each individual nation within NATO possesses the capacity to adequately defend itself in case of the rest of NATO’s or more accurately the American armies aren’t able to respond immediately to the outbreak of a conflict on its borders.

In a world where the United Nations fails to enforce even the most minor infractions regarding international law, NATO is the current world order. The world is becoming increasingly hostile, and NATO must be ready for any possibility, expected or unexpected, to ensure peace in our time.

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About the Contributor
Henry Rothenbach
Henry Rothenbach, Asst. News Editor
Henry Rothenbach is a Sophomore assistant news editor at Niles North who has been with North Star News since Freshman year and enjoys writing and reading in his free time.

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