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Rubio’s Myopic “Vision” for Europe

Marco Rubio outlined his “vision” for Europe last week. It contained a number of bad and questionable ideas, of which this was certainly the worst:

Fifth, we must enlarge NATO. Allies need to overcome the roadblocks to enlargement before the next NATO summit — including by inviting Montenegro to join the alliance — and to reaffirm that the open door policy is still intact and applies to any NATO aspirant, including Ukraine [bold mine-DL] if it so chooses.

Each new round of NATO enlargement has been harder to justify and more dangerous than the last, and in the case of Ukraine it would be reckless in the extreme. The U.S. and its allies already know that they’re not going to fight to defend Ukraine, so talk of future NATO membership is nonsense. Pretending that Ukraine may one day become part of the alliance keeps NATO expansion as a live issue and a pretext for Russian interference. European governments are not going to admit Ukraine into NATO, especially not after the last year and a half. Since that is the case, keeping the “door” open to “any NATO aspirant” creates an unrealistic expectation that continued eastward expansion still might happen. That offers false “reassurance” and doesn’t make the aspirants the least bit more secure. The fact that he still wants to keep the option available shows us just how unrealistic and confrontational Rubio’s “vision” for Europe is. Rubio’s support for sending weapons to Ukraine is further proof of this.

If Rubio wants to strengthen the defenses of existing allies and make them more secure, that is directly at odds with adding on new security commitments, putting additional burdens on alliance resources, and making the alliance an even larger, more unwieldy organization than it already is. Further enlarging NATO won’t make any existing members more secure, but will in all likelihood expand the alliance’s Article V commitment past the breaking point. Rubio’s “vision” for Europe amounts to describing how the U.S. can add to its existing commitments and how our government can devote more of its resources to European security. He refers to U.S.-European “partnership,” but has practically nothing to say about what our allies should be contributing to it. European allies won’t do significantly more to provide for their own security so long as they can count on the U.S. to do it for them. Rubio’s “vision” would reinforce that bad habit instead of challenging it.

It is telling that Rubio’s “vision” for Europe is focused on Russia to the exclusion of almost everything else. He doesn’t say anything one way or another about the TTIP or growing European opposition to it, the maintenance of U.S. relations with our major allies, or how his pledge to scrap a nuclear deal with Iran would affect relations with the major allies that are helping to negotiate it. Rubio’s “vision” for Europe is myopic and not one to be trusted.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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