July 3, 2014
Ullman: NATO's Weakest Flank and Softest Underbelly
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), created in 1949 to contain and deter Soviet aggression, has been the most successful defensive military alliance in history. Through forty years of Cold War, military planning focused on preventing and blocking a Soviet military assault across the north German plain while reinforcing the so-called northern and southern flanks of the alliance immediately adjacent to Russia and her Warsaw Pact allies. The "flanks" and the "underbelly" were always of concern because they were the most distant and therefore logistically difficult to reach.Now, a quarter of a century after the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union disintegrated, NATO faces a new weakest flank and softest underbelly. Both have become exposed and made far more vulnerable by the Russian annexation of Crimea and more dangerously, by events in Syria and Iraq. There the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS or ISIL for the Levant as it is now known, has established temporary sovereignty across a considerable landmass in that region under the strictest reading of Sharia law.