Zombie NATO Expansion Stumbles On

Originally appeared at The American Conservative.

NATO expansion stumbles on mindlessly like a zombie:

The U.S. Senate approved the accession of North Macedonia to NATO in a 91-2 vote Tuesday, meaning the small Balkan nation is a step closer to becoming NATO’s 30th member.

NATO doesn’t need any new members, and adding North Macedonia adds nothing to the alliance except another security dependent. There is never any serious debate about continued NATO expansion. It is simply taken for granted as something that the alliance will keep doing for as long as it can get away with it. The lopsided vote in the Senate is proof that this alliance commitment has been made automatically and unthinkingly. Almost nothing in our foreign policy debates commands near-unanimous support like this, and when that happens it is a good sign that no real debate has occurred. Sens. Paul and Lee deserve credit for voting against the measure. It is telling that the supposedly NATO-skeptic Trump has expressed no opposition to bringing in Montenegro or North Macedonia. Ben Friedman remarks on this:

North Macedonia’s accession doesn’t risk dragging the alliance into a war, unlike some other current and prospective members, but it also serves no purpose for the alliance or US security. The US has far too many security commitments as it is, so if we are going to add another one there had better be a compelling reason for it. But there is no compelling reason to bring this country into the alliance. It is treating membership in a military alliance as a cookie to reward their government for good behavior. That is the wrong reason to extend a serious security guarantee, and it paves the way for making the same mistake again in the future.

If this were the end of NATO expansion, it would still be the wrong move, but at least it wouldn’t leave the door open to more mistakes. Unfortunately, the alliance insists on keeping that door open indefinitely. This won’t be the last time the alliance expands, but it should be.

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.