By Zachary Yost
With the recent news that Turkey had downed a Russian warplane for supposed airspace violations, the international community has been in an uproar.
While the Russian and Turkish accounts of what exactly transpired are at odds, there is no doubt that the Turkish government shot down the Russian plane for what — by their own account — couldn’t have been more than a 17 second airspace violation.
Speculation abounds as to why Turkey did this, especially considering that Turkey has violated Greek airspace over 1,400 times this year alone. One possible idea is that this was in retaliation for Russian bombardment of Turkmen rebels who have ethnic ties to Turkey.
Whatever the case, the incident has prompted numerous people, including those who rarely pay attention to international politics, to pause in concern and contemplate the terrible disaster that this could provoke, if tensions spiral out of control. The worse case being a conflict between the United States and fellow nuclear armed state, Russia.
One thing that hasn’t been adequately discussed is the root of the problem: US membership in the NATO alliance.
Although the likelihood of the United States withdrawing from NATO is remote, at least in the current political environment, this should at least be discussed, given the many benefits that could result.
For one thing, a gradual withdrawal would be sure to put Russia at ease, lessening their concern for NATO expansion near their borders. In turn, it is likely that Russia would cease some of its more proactive actions, such as those in Ukraine, aimed at maintaining its sphere of influence.
It would also stop giving other NATO countries incentives to free-ride on the US army for their defense. Because the United States spends an abnormally large amount of money on its military, it routinely takes the lion’s share of work in NATO operations. Without the US military storming in from the horizon to take care of European security, states will have to make provisions to ensure their own safety.
But perhaps the greatest benefit of such a move would be that it would discourage irresponsible behavior from current US allies. Without the vast armed might of the United States backing it up, it is unlikely that Turkey would have committed such a provocative act against Russia. Without the United States to ward off any retaliation, nations will think twice before engaging in risky confrontations.
In his farewell address, George Washington warned of the dangers of entangling alliances. While it is not always true that if you keep your nose out of trouble, no trouble will come to you, it certainly helps if you don’t get involved in organizations like NATO, which is exactly the kind of alliance that George Washington warned about.
Withdrawing from NATO would not only reduce the likelihood of the United States becoming embroiled in yet another conflict on the other side of the globe, it would also help to ratchet down mounting world tensions, making a large-scale conflict less likely.
The time is right for US citizens to engage in a much-needed intellectual discourse on the pros and cons of continued involvement in NATO. We should withdraw now, before the unthinkable happens, and the world once again stumbles into global warfare.
Zachary Yost is a Young Voices Advocate who works in the Washington, DC, area. Follow @ZacharyYost.