An Alliance of Equals

PARIS – During NATO’s recent 60th anniversary ceremony in Strasbourg, the Alliance welcomed two new members, Albania and Croatia, bringing its total membership to 28. This expansion is a good thing, for history has tormented these two countries. Being welcomed within the great international family of the West will reassure them, stabilize them, and contribute to their political, cultural, and economic development.

But the good news was limited, because NATO addressed only a routine agenda. No core problem was really tackled.

The controversy that arose in France over the country’s return to NATO’s unified military command makes this abundantly clear. Was France losing its autonomy, perhaps even its sovereignty? Was it capitulating to American hegemony? These are real questions, yet at the NATO summit people spoke of them more in terms of symbols than as realities.

But what is the reality here? NATO is a military alliance composed of 28 countries. One of them, the United States, has a military budget that is more than three times that of all the other members combined. Hence, the US runs most NATO civilian and military commands with the consent of the others. Of course, there is a collective consultation and deliberative process that enables any member to be heard. But in reality a member’s actual power is what affects common decisions.