REECAS Quarterly Course Lists

Winter 2021 JSIS A 416 North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Winter 2021

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Meeting Time: TTh 2:30 – 4:20 PM

Location: Online

SLN: 16068

Joint Sections: None

Instructor: Christopher D Jones

Additional Details:

Take a look at the Fall, 2020 issue of  FP  magazine (formerly Foreign Policy ).See the lead essay by  Michael Hirsh, “The Most Important Election in History” . Hirsh writes that legions of commentators on both sides of the Atlantic – political leaders,  diplomats, journalists, retired senior military and intelligence officers – are warning that the entire structure of US collaboration with its overseas allies will collapse if Donald Trump wins a second term. They also warn that a Biden presidency may face insuperable obstacles in the US and Europe in trying to salvage NATO and other institutions of US -allied cooperation.

Pew  Research Center surveys indicate that European opinions of the United States have dropped to the lowest levels in modern times.  For European publics the problem is more than Trump. It is perception of the polarized American society that Trump bombards with divisive and inflammatory appeals to racism, anti-immigrant policies, denials of climate change, assaults on democratic norms, praise for Vladimir Putin and  other authoritarians plus Trump’s own vitriolic denunciations of the European Union.  There is widespread incredulity in Europe at how Trump has managed the COVID-19 epidemic, cheered on by un-masked men, sometimes armed with assault weapons originally designed for the NATO armies.  In turn cheered on by Trump, some of these armed private militias are  now aiming  their assault weapons at elected governors of the states of the American federal union – governors denounced by the President of the United States for their  evidence-based public health policies to deal with COVID -19.

The critics of Trump see more than just a demagogue: they see  a  major historical crisis that will reach its apogee after the US election.  This the unravelling of the international institutions of the liberal international order built by the US and its allies during the Cold War on the basis of shared democratic values of diverse national communities.  The supporters of Trump claim to see a defender of the “real America”, a country populated by “real Americans” upholding  a pre-Civil war “originalist”  US Constitution that disenfranchised all but white male property owners.  The fundamental issue is the seeming American abandonment of the egalitarian universalist  political and cultural values that since 1945 have been the foundation of US policy toward Europe, toward the Asia-Pacific region and the rest of the world.  Why would Europeans – or any other population- trust Americans to be reliable allies if Americans don’t trust each other to uphold common values of democracy, rule-of-law norms, fair elections and equal treatment of all citizens regardless of ethnic, racial, gender and other identities?

If these dire predictions  are accurate about the reversion of American society to exclusionary political values of earlier centuries, the first  international institution to crumble may be the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an organization that Trump denounces regularly and has  promised to leave. The Trump trajectory has been opposed by the key members of the early Trump Administration: Secretary of Defense  General (ret) James Mattis, National Security Advisor General H. R. McMaster, the next national Security Advisor, John Bolton, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and many other high-level officials who have left the Trump Administration either voluntarily or been dismissed. In addition, many retired senior  military and diplomatic officials have signed public statements denouncing Trump’s approach to American allies and affirming NATO as  the bedrock for US- European cooperation.

The  present domestic crisis of American citizenship sheds a new light on NATO, the longest-lasting and most powerful military alliance in human history. JSIS A 416 516 examines this history during the Cold War and the post Cold War period.  The format is the use of case studies to examine various crises faced by NATO since 1949. One of these cases is that of the Helsinki Accords of 1975, which united the NATO allies around the concept of universal “human rights”.  Many scholars are now recognizing this Euro-Atlantic concept of human rights  as the catalyst for the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact and the USSR itself.  Other case studies include the most recent NATO crises- that of NATO policy in Afghanistan and of NATO policy toward Ukraine.

The   main theme  throughout the course is  the gradual  convergence during the period from   1949 to 2016  of common coordinated defense policies among the member states of NATO and the member states what is now the European Union.  These two sets of states have jointly sustained the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (1975-1994)/Organization for Security and cooperation in Europe( 1994-present).  They have also supported  an imperfect but partially effective international arms control  system built around the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and related arms control agreements, some of which have recently collapsed, mainly due to actions of the Trump Administration.

There is now a divide between a  popular nostalgic memory of NATO’s  “golden age” and the scholarly literature which documents  NATO existential crisis after  NATO existential crisis throughout the Cold  War.   The bad news/good news: the present crisis has many precedents. One course text, Timothy Andrews Sayles, Enduring Alliance: A History of NATO and the Postwar Global Order,  focuses on  recurring crises of the Cold War period of 1949-1989  while another text, William  H. Hill, No Place for Russia: European Security Institutions Since 1989   connects the Cold War legacy of NATO with its current dilemmas.

After an overview of NATO’s triumph during the Cold War period the course focus will focus on NATO security policies in  five  seemingly intractable  dilemmas of  post-Cold War period.  These dilemmas  have  marked the return of History, the return of  Russia and  the return of existential NATO crises. Each of these crises has generated  volumes of contentious scholarship, most of which is unknown to the general American public.

Case 1  

The NATO-EU Response to the Disintegration of  Communist Yugoslavia 

NATO-EU security collaboration began on the battlefields of the former Yugoslavia in response to violent conflicts that murdered about 133,000 people. It is estimated that the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo produced about 2.4 million refugees and an additional 2 million internally displaced persons.  The chaos in Yugoslavia disrupted the economies of the entire Balkan region and gave rise to criminal networks across southeastern Europe. The waves of refugees  placed tremendous socio-political-economic strains on the adjoining states, including some members of NATO and the EU. The thrust of the assigned readings is that the coordinated institutional  policies of NATO and the EU have exported an  what one scholar calls a   Pax Democratica to  the post-communist states emerging from Yugoslavia. The essence of this strategy is to draw the states of the greater Balkan region into membership of both NATO and the European Union.

Case 2  

Enlargements of NATO and the EU 

The  NATO-EU  enlargement processes in the former Yugoslavia have  proceeded simultaneously with similar post-communist processes in four Balkan  states immediately surrounding the former Yugoslavia — Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania. These states harbor ethnic and religious enclaves closely linked to ethnic and religious diaspora of the former Yugoslavia.  Yugoslav  diaspora issues have also had major effects on three  NATO members – Greece, Turkey and Italy.

Another set of states joining NATO includes Czechoslovakia ( now split into two separate states), the former East Germany ( now part of the Federal Republic of Germany)  and Poland, plus three former union republics of the USSR- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Each of the three Baltic has complex internal issues of ethno-national-religious identities. Issues of diaspora and “lost” provinces complicate Poland’s relations with its immediate neighbors.

The  enlargement of the NATO/EU bloc has inescapably (even if unintentionally)  become a policy of excluding Russia from the NATO/EU bloc and of  creating a zone of  OSCE states caught between the Russian Federation and  the “West.” These are the  major themes of William Hill’s study, No place for Russia.  The  states presently caught between Russia and the NATO/EU bloc are  Belarus , Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan and to some degree  even Serbia and Montenegro. The post-Soviet states of Central Asia might also be included in this category[CJ1] , but JSIS 416/516 will not go there.  A NATO focus on Western Eurasia is complicated enough.

Several of the states geographically between Russia and NATO are trapped in “frozen conflicts” involving Russian support for break-away ethnic provinces within these states.  The former communist  states stranded in a post-Soviet  “no man’s land”   find that internal socio-economic modernization is frustrated by incompatible requirements set by “ the West” and  by the Eurasian Economic Union championed by President Putin.

The present and prospective  populations of the new EU/NATO members from the former communist zones of East Europe add up to about  130 million people- a figure roughly comparable to the current population of the Russian Federation (about 145 million.  Russia’s GDP is about 3 percent of global GDP.)  The combined population of the  present NATO/EU bloc amounts to about 940 million people with a combined GDP that is at least  35 percent of global GDP. Th

Debates over Western policies toward Russia have become linked to debates within the EU and NATO  over “globalist” concepts of human rights, civil rights and political rights.  Those issues have become linked to arguments over national identities in Western Eurasia and North America.  These disputes  in turn have become intermingled with the debates over  the socio-economic inequalities between “global elites” and the nativists left behind in the woebegone provinces of NATO and the EU.

The bottom line is that the enlargement processes in post-communist Europe  have left both NATO and the EU confronting overlapping problems of  policy coordination in the face of severe external and internal challenges to the values shared by supporters of both NATO and the EU.


Case 3 


Since 9-11, 2001, NATO  has fought a costly and futile  war in Afghanistan, a country that is closely linked to Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East.  NATO strategy has  struggled unsuccessfully with  regional issues of Islamic radicalism and related security conflicts in Afghanistan/Pakistan and the Middle East. NATO’s strategic failures include the brief NATO air war in Libya in 2011. And then there is the  toxic aftermath  of America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq- a campaign not supported by NATO but  that did involve the US, the UK and several other NATO members. The tortured drama in Iraq continues to this day and has now precipitated armed clashes between US and Iranian-backed forces.

The consensus of the assigned readings is that the  G. W. Bush administration subordinated NATO policy in Afghanistan to a  “ coalition of the willing”  that invaded Iraq for the declaratory purpose of halting an Iraqi nuclear weapons program (that  in fact had been secretly abandoned). The ad-hoc collection of US allies that fought a long, bitter and inconclusive war in Iraq that spilled over into Syria and challenged Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, US/NATO forces wasted huge human and material resources for dismal outcomes and the perpetuation of Afghanistan as a potential sanctuary for radical Islamic organizations capable of striking US/NATO targets.

The assigned reading on NATO’s war in Afghanistan is presents a caustic view of US leadership of the war NATO waged in Afghanistan.  This reading consists of  two texts.  One is that of Philip Gordon, Losing the Long Game: The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East.  Gordon is a former high-level US policy official. The other text is   the Washington Post publication in December of 2019 of The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War, edited by Craig  Whitlock.   The Whitlock study is based on documents produced by an internal US Department of Defense study of the failed US/NATO campaigns in Afghanistan. The  Washington Post obtained DOD documents after lengthy court battles  revolving around the  US Freedom of Information Act.

The Whitlock and Gordon studies raise the question whether NATO- and the US – will recover from the military-political wounds of the  wars fought by the US  in Iraq, Afghanistan/Pakistan  and Libya  and from the US-lead campaigns in Iraq and Syria.  The bottom line here: the US and NATO  have not formulated a coherent military-political strategy to deal with the political challenges of anti-Western Islamic movements in Afghanistan/Pakistan/ and the Middle East.  The impact has been to undermine public confidence in US leadership of NATO.

NATO’s Afghan debacle raises  issues of  policy coordination within NATO in regard to the January, 2020 confrontation of the Trump Administration with Iran.  There was under the Obama administration a coordination of  US policy on the Iranian nuclear program with three NATO members (France, UK and Germany) plus the EU.  The result was the Joint Cooperative Plan of Action on dismantling nuclear weapons facilities in Iran.  The JPCOA was signed  in July of 2015  by Iran, the US, UK, France, Germany and the EU plus Russia and China. Trump withdrew from the JPCOA in May of 2018.  After the US targeted assassination in early 2020 of the Commander of the Iranian Quds Force, General  Qassem Suleimani, Iran has announced its complete withdrawal from the JCPOA and its intention to develop the capabilities necessary to produce weapons-grade uranium.

Case 4 

The Russia- Ukraine Crisis 

Since 2014, EU and NATO policies have revolved around  the hybrid war/information war/cyberwar strategies and tactics of the Ukraine -Russia conflict.

The highly-debated question here is whether the present crisis in Ukraine was inherent in the processes of enlargement of both NATO and the EU ( examined in Case 2).

In any case, the current  stakes in Ukraine are : Russia’s  hybrid war/disinformation/cyber war assaults on  the internal cohesion of Ukraine and on  the institutional cohesion of the NATO and EU states; the future of the arms control agreements that since 1987 have regulated the military balance in Europe; the assertion of Russian power over its post-Soviet neighbors; the future of democracy in Ukraine; Ukraine’s long-term relationships with the EU and NATO.

The historian Timothy Snyder sees in the Ukraine crisis  that began in 2013-2014  a  pattern of Russian “information war” combined with the  “politics of eternity” (eternal conflict with eternal foreign enemies and their traitorous sympathizers at home).  Snyder’s 2018 study The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe and America claims that Russian disinformation campaigns are focused on undermining democratic processes in Russia, Ukraine, the EU  and America. The outcome Snyder fears is  in Russia, Europe and America is the rise of  nationalist authoritarian rulers who use techniques information warfare on internet-based social networks to promote anti-democratic political cults of personality modelled on the dictators of the 1930s.  Snyder, a professor at Yale University, is also the author of On Tyranny, (2017), a handbook on resisting demagogues intent on subverting democratic political systems.  In 2018 he spoke on this topic at the UW  to a Kane Hall audience of about 500 people.

Snyder claims that the focus  of the  Russian strategy of “unfreedom”  is the use of conspiracy theories  and historical myths to subvert  fact-based  public discourse on the histories of  Western Eurasia  and North America over the last 100 + years. This includes the histories of NATO and  the EU.  Snyder further claims that Russian “disinformation “ policy is  paralleled by disinformation policies of the Trump Administration  that have deliberately mis-tweeted facts about recent events in  Ukraine,  NATO, the EU and the US.  The histories of NATO and the EU have become  a sub-field of hybrid war waged by digital media demagogues, a drama now being re-enacted in Belarus. The writing and reading of history have become warfare by other means. This war of disinformation will proceed in real time during the  ten weeks of this course.


Case 5 The Trump Crisis of Atlantic Solidarity on Political Values,  Military Strategy, Security Guarantees and Arms Control Treaties 

Alexander Cooley and Daniel Nexon offer the final case study of the course.  Writing in the present tense and in uncertainty about the outcome of the 2020 US President election, these two American scholars provide an historical overview of the evolution of NATO and the Asia-Pacific alliances of the United States.  They then chart the possible disintegration of these alliances in the event of a Trump victory in the 2020 election.