Next US president and NATO

Last month Risto E J Penttilä, head of the Finnish Business and Policy Forum (EVA), wrote (fi) in Taloussanomat about the meaning of a Hillary Clinton presidency to Finnish foreign policy (my translation):

When Hillary Clinton tells Finns that NATO is an alternative to American autocracy, Finnish 'intellectuals' will begin to examine the military alliance in a new way. When Clinton tells Finns that Europe's influence in NATO will rise, presidential candidate Niinistö smiles. When Clinton says to Halonen that Finland's conciliatory abilities, peacekeeping knowhow, and good relations with Russia would be needed in NATO, intensive deliberation will begin also at the highest level. Is it truly the case that NATO has become an ordinary international organization which we too should join?

The suggestion that joining NATO would somehow limit American power is rather bizarre. Presently it's difficult to discertain any such mechanism at work, and surely nothing would change on that front should Finland join the club. If the United States really, really wanted to invade a random Middle Eastern country, then that's what would happen.

Still, the main point, if exaggerated here, is sound enough: a new US president, one less belligerent than the current officeholder, would probably boost NATO's popularity. I've written as much before.

The problem is that even if the bad US presidents eventually leave office, so do the good ones. Thus, it's not a sound approach to base one's NATO position on just how belligerent the current office holder happens to be - or who you expect to win the next election. You might get a Clinton or, better yet, an Obama. You might also get a Giuliani, after which the Bush years might seem like the good old days.

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