SACEUR: In a World of Instability, NATO is a Linchpin for Peace

Exercise Iron Sword, Jan. 15, 2013The NATO alliance is arguably the most critical linchpin supporting stability on the continent that is home to the world’s largest integrated economy — and, incidentally, on the continent that has in the past century or so spawned the world’s most destructive conflicts.

In the century before I became SACEUR, approximately 100 million people died as a result of World Wars I and II. Additionally, Europe was caught in a vicious cycle of violence where, from the Franco-Prussian wars to WWI and then WWII, the results of one war fed directly into the casus belli for the next. Thankfully, after WWII, we broke the pattern. In fact, since the inception of NATO, the European continent has enjoyed its longest period without a major power conflict in centuries. Though NATO cannot take all the credit for this prolonged period of relative peace, it is no mere coincidence that Europe’s stability and prosperity have developed alongside the world’s most capable and effective political-military alliance….

This is an alliance that has proved its worth, in the blood of its sons and daughters.

Finally, if the naysayers still are not convinced of the criticality of this alliance, just look at the headlines. There is an arc of instability and aggression threatening our interests and our allies stretching from the Arctic, through Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and across North Africa. Only the most diehard isolationist could claim that this is not a direct threat to the United States and our interests. Our allies are on the front lines challenging Russian aggression, ungoverned and undergoverned spaces, and the world’s largest migrant crisis since WWII. Russia’s revanchist ambitions and illegal annexation of Crimea have led to the first attempt to change internationally recognized borders by force in Europe since the end of that conflict. Our allies are reacting and engaging. They have been essential in maintaining effective sanctions against the Russians and in ramping up exercises and assurance measures….

NATO has been and will continue to be the centerpiece to peace and stability in Europe. It is an institution indispensable in today’s dangerous world. We Americans cannot stand alone. Our greatest strength is vested in our partners and allies who share our dreams, our values and, yes, shoulder-to-shoulder share our burdens.

Philip M. Breedlove is NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe and commander of the U.S. European Command.

Related Experts:

Image: Exercise Iron Sword, Jan. 15, 2013 (photo: Sgt. David Turner/US Army)