Forty years after it was founded, NATO triumphed. Not only was West Europe saved, not only did the Red Army never cross the Elbe, but the Cold War ended in total victory for the West without a shot fired. The Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union imploded, and its satrapies in Eastern Europe were liberated.
At which point the question might have been asked what NATO was now for. Alas, as is so often the case, an institution which had out lived its original purpose had to think of new things to do — like expanding eastward to include the former Warsaw Pact countries…
For all the compromises, NATO did originally represent a fair balance of interests, but that cannot be said of the Afghan war. If Americans complain about having to pay most of the cost of the alliance, Europeans could reply that that’s only fair if NATO is going to be little more than the American Foreign Legion.
A new height of dangerous absurdity came with the short-lived conflict between Georgia and Russia. Hillary Clinton — in electioneering rather than State Department mode — had already demanded that both Ukraine and Georgia should be admitted to NATO, prompting the question how Washington would have felt if Leonid Brezhnev had invited Mexico and Cuba to join the Warsaw Pact.