Russia's expedition into eastern Ukraine has Europeans, especially those in the east, wringing their hands with worry. While the decades-old North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) provides for common European and Allied defense from Russian advances, most European governments have discarded it as a Cold War relic. That needs to change.
Since the end of the Cold War, NATO's purpose has been in question. A leftover from the heady days of Sputnik and Able Archer '83, it has been neglected as European nations sought greater ties with new Russia. Western nations drastically cut defense spending and pulled troops out of European bases. Only the U.S. keeps a respectable number of forces in theater, and the common defense of Europe has become more of an American mission than a European one.
Americans are war weary; 14 years of combat will do that. That's why NATO members need to step up and again provide for their own defense. Not entirely, of course; the U.S. should contribute to show Russia that there are consequences if NATO is to be challenged. But it's not our territory and it's not our backyard. Europeans taking charge of their own defense is what NATO is all about, and the U.S. doesn't have the funds or the political will to fight others' battles anymore. If Europeans are serious about standing up to Russia, they should start by increasing military spending and becoming equal partners in NATO once again.
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