We had a pretty good discussion on NATO on Tuesday with the majority in agreement of the path forward relative to the extent of U.S. involvement in this treaty.

We agreed that the creation of NATO in 1949 was mainly to protect Europe from Soviet aggression post WWII. We also agreed that maintaining the alliance after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991 (and even expanding it some) paid dividends considering the aggression of Russia in 2014 when they annexed Crimea, then the assault on Ukraine starting in early 2022.

We discussed how NATO evolved and expanded past WWII to create a buffer between the U.S. and Russia mainly as a deterrence. The Soviet Union had its proxy states along the western border such as Hungry, Poland, and Czechoslovakia while NATO had a similar force like France, West Germany, and the United Kingdom on the other side. This created a military balance strong enough to avoid a major conflict between the superpowers.

The question was then asked: Why did Putin invade Ukraine? Is it because he was afraid of the ongoing expansion of NATO, or the possibility that NATO might invade Russia, or is it because he was contemplating to bring back the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union? Or is it because he wanted to restore political and military superiority. We all agreed that NATO has no intention of conquering other nations, but only to protect NATO countries against foreign invasion. The consensus was that it was because of the rapid expansion of NATO close to Russia and the need to have a strategic buffer, in addition to his conviction that Ukraine is a Russian territory.

Then we discussed if the U.S. should continue to take the lead militarily and financially in NATO, and whether Putin would be, as a result, so vehemently opposed to NATO? The consensus was that the U.S. should remain heavily involved, but maybe not to the extent financially as it is now. That would be the case if each NATO country would commit to the agreed-upon 2% spending of their GDP on defense (alliance security). Currently, only 7 NATO countries out of 31 actually do that.

As for Ukraine, the group believes that a way out (back door) should be offered to Putin so that he can gracefully back down. Otherwise, the war is likely to continue. Furthermore, Putin is now more hopeful as evidenced by the weakening U.S. financial support to Ukraine’s military, coupled with Russia’s capture of a village last week.

So, what are the U.S. foreign policy options: (1) Status Quo and maybe continue expanding, (2) some type of deterrence, not only when attacked, but when there is a trigger, or (3) start debating the need for NATO and the U.S. involvement, considering that Congress and the Senate are passing legislation to put roadblocks to prevent a Republican administration from withdrawing from NATO. The consensus was to continue to be an integral part of NATO, but enforce the 2% of GDP spending on all NATO countries.

And lastly, we looked at NATO 2030 which is an agenda to ensure that “NATO remains ready, strong, and united for a new era of increased global competition.”