Here at The Infographics Show we come up with
all kinds of interesting topics and ideas to research for your entertainment, but sometimes
we like answering a question directly from you, the fans. Today we’re going to look at a huge what-if
scenario, submitted by fan Jochi, who asked us what would happen if the US were to pull
out of NATO? Concern for an American withdrawal from NATO
is not without precedent. Famously, now-President Trump often bemoaned
the alliance during the 2016 election, saying that the US should pull out of it and that
it no longer served American interests to remain in NATO. While that statement was not just completely
factually incorrect, it ultimately proved to be nothing more than political grandstanding
for votes, and the US today firmly remains in NATO. Yet American sentiments on both sides of the
political aisle that European member states don’t pull their fair share within the alliance
are not without merit. Per a 2014 agreement, each nation is meant
to fund its military at 2% of GDP, with 20% of that spent on equipment. After World War II the US was happy to bear
the majority cost of defending Europe as European nations rebuilt themselves after World War
II. However, over the next almost seven decades,
nations would consistently fail to meet funding goals, and when President Trump took office
in 2016, only Britain and the US were meeting that 2% goal. Today Greece, Britain, Estonia and Poland
are the only nations to meet or exceed 2% spending, though 15 total nations of the 29
member states are on track to meet that goal sometime in the 2020s. Simply put, many Americans are tired of bearing
the cost of defending Europe while Europeans seem generally disinterested in doing so. In fact the atrophying of Europe’s defense
industry is largely thanks to the security umbrella that the US has provided for almost
seven decades, and with thousands of American servicemen stationed across Europe, European
nations have traditionally seen little need to be responsible for their own defense past
a token force. So, what if America said enough is enough,
and decided to withdraw from NATO, what would happen to the alliance and how could it fair
in war against say China or Russia? First, if the US packed up all its toys and
went home, a whopping 75% of military hardware on the continent would suddenly disappear,
along with about 50,000 troops. The United States operates its military on
a total war footing, meaning that it dedicates resources to ensure supremacy in all areas
of warfare: land, sea, air, space and cyberspace. Few other nations however match this capability,
and most NATO forces aside from France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and the UK don’t have a diverse
enough military to carry out a true combined arms war against a modern adversary such as
Russia. The most immediate problem NATO would face
would be a severe lack of space-based communications and intelligence assets, as the majority of
NATO’s space resources are American, and American units process and disseminate this information
to NATO partners. The second major obstacle for NATO would be
a lack of transportation assets. In our previous video, The United States Vs
The World, we showed you that in a total global war against the US, the American military
would be able to fight the world’s militaries to a draw, and prevent any invasion of the
American homeland. This is due to two factors: the United States
Navy and its transportation capabilities. Simply put, the world lacks enough military
transportation capability, and the naval assets to defend that cargo, to ever threaten the
United States. Guns aren’t worth a damn if you can’t bring
them to the battlefield, or if they get sunk enroute. Take China for example, a modern military
power with a huge thorn in its side: Taiwan. The tiny island defiantly refuses reunification
with the mainland, and yet though the Chinese military greatly dwarfs the small Taiwanese
forces, China is completely incapable of crossing the 110 miles (180 km) to get to the island. It lacks the air and naval transportation
capabilities to pull this very tiny trip off, and any attempt to invade Taiwan by China’s
juggernaut military would end in a total bloodbath for the People’s Liberation Army. NATO however is in an even worse position
for transporting troops and equipment to a modern battlefield. During the Falklands War between Great Britain
and Argentina, had Argentina used its navy more efficiently it would have absolutely
trounced British forces, due to the low numbers that Britain could successfully ferry across
the Atlantic at a time. Even with the objective being the securing
of a tiny strip of islands, Britain could barely manage to procure enough transportation
capability to conduct a maritime assault, and had to press civilian ships into service. Even then it was covert American assistance
that saw Britain’s task force ships refueled enroute to the Falklands, and American aircraft
that flew British personnel to Ascension Island, a staging ground for the invasion. It was also American satellite intelligence
that averted a potential total defeat, when the CIA informed the British that their invasion
force would be going up against two to three times the number of defenders they originally
believed they would be facing. In modern times, things haven’t gotten much
better, and the British navy has actually shrunk in size. Several ships have even had to be cannibalized
of crew so that Britain’s new aircraft carriers could be activated. The French and Italians are in a better position
to move NATO troops around, but even their current fleets don’t allow those nations to
do much more than small expeditionary sorties, such as France’s current ongoing counter-terrorism
operations in Africa. In essence, NATO would be all but paralyzed
as it tried to move troops and equipment to war fronts due to a severe shortage of transportation
assets. The best that NATO could manage would be a
European defense, as the alliance has absolutely no capability to respond to threats outside
of the European theater. A war with China would thus be impossible,
although to be fair, China itself also cannot wage war outside of its own borders. The third problem that NATO would face would
be the leadership vacuum caused by the US’s exit from the alliance. Without any other nation being truly militarily
superior, though France is certainly neck and shoulders above others, it would be difficult
to determine just who would run the alliance during war time. A crisis against Russia would require a unified
command structure, and right now, no nation seems capable of stepping in and filling that
role. Thanks to the disastrous decision to leave
the EU, Britain would likely be far too resented by the other Euro powers to allow it to lead,
and highly divisive internal politics in France and Germany would likely preclude them from
taking leadership. Turkey is today seen by many as a rather reluctant
partner in NATO, and where war to break out between a divided NATO and Russia, there is
no telling if Turkey would honor its commitment to the alliance. But let’s say that NATO did manage to pull
itself together enough to resist a Russian invasion- if for some reason Russia did want
to invade. Well, right now NATO’s easternmost neighbors,
such as Estonia and Latvia, face about 46 battalions of Russian tanks, infantry, and
other forces. By comparison, NATO has only 11 battalions
currently defending that area, and most of those forces are light infantry forces with
little heavy equipment. NATO could effectively surge an additional
8 battalions in an emergency, but 7 of those battalions right now would be American. Without the US, NATO could only surge a single
battalion to an eastern emergency, bringing NATO troop numbers to 12 battalions versus
Russia’s 46. Not only would NATO forces be initially outnumbered,
but Russia could call up to 20 million reservists relatively quickly, while NATO has varying
levels of readiness on a nation by nation basis. In the air, NATO and Russia have a relative
parity, with both nations having roughly the same amount of fighter aircraft. However, Russia has an advantage in attack
aircraft, numbering 1,459, versus NATO’s approximately 1,300. Russia without a doubt fields the best air
defense system in the world, in the S-300, 400, and the new 500 model, and without American
stealth assets or long-range cruise missiles to destroy these systems or the command and
control nodes that support them, NATO air forces would be savaged as long as Russia
advanced slowly across Europe, allowing time for its air defenses to reposition and cover
troop movements. Targeting would also be a major problem for
NATO forces, who would no longer have access to American recon assets or satellites to
relay information on enemy troop movements and locations. With a massive advantage in electronic warfare,
Russian forces could potentially make coordination and communication between NATO forces very
difficult. On the ground, Russian tank forces would dwarf
NATO forces, with roughly 20,000 tanks at its disposal versus NATO’s 3,600. Granted, many of Russia’s stated tank numbers
are actually cold war era relics which would require weeks of maintenance to make combat
worthy, but even without these Russia still fields a very sizable force of modern and
post-modern, but still capable tanks. A more accurate Russian number would be 2,600
of immediately available tanks, though no doubt many of those in reserve would be reactivated
in the buildup to war. With almost 4,000 rocket artillery though,
Russia would decimate NATO forces, who can barely field 400 units of their own. Traditionally NATO relied on more accurate
air power rather than ground artillery, but most of that air power was American in nature
and now no longer available. While Russia also has an advantage in traditional
artillery, rocket artillery is especially devastating as it allows the launching of
massive amounts of firepower in a very short time, not giving the defenders a chance to
relocate or dig in to defensive positions. Russia’s advantage in this arena would leave
NATO forces struggling to pull themselves together in an environment that would look
like the cratered surface of the moon. Although NATO could field about 2 million
personnel versus Russia’s 1 million, these personnel all have varying degrees of readiness,
as does their equipment. Famously, Germany’s air force was discovered
to be completely incapable of carrying out war time operations this past summer due to
a shortage of personnel and equipment both. Its navy also faces similar problems, leaving
in question the utility of a keystone member of a European-only alliance. Turkey also makes up the bulk of European
NATO forces, and given its strained relation with other NATO members, and a lack of strong
leadership should the US step out of the alliance, it’s not known if Turkey would support NATO
in a war against Russia. NATO could not hope to operate in the short
term without the US’s continued support, though there is hope that if the US left and there
was no immediate emergency, the alliance could manage to pull itself together in time and
become a fighting force capable of at least defending Europe. With the balance of global power shifting
across the Atlantic to the Pacific in a new tug of war between the US and China though,
NATO will have to greatly expand its expeditionary capabilities if it doesn’t want to live in
a world dominated by China’s influence, and under global rules imposed by the Chinese
communist party. If NATO wanted to remain viable in war without
the United States, then immediate steps must be taken to address critical shortfalls in
key areas. A dramatic expansion of expeditionary capabilities
would be critical not just for fighting conflicts far from home, but to rapidly move forces
to potential flashpoints with Russia. This means a larger naval transport fleet
and the surface and undersea assets to protect those ships, as well as a huge expansion of
current air transportation fleets. Next, the alliance would have to address a
critical lack of space assets, as without US support the meager European space infrastructure
that does exist would be very quickly dismantled in war. While the US has a fleet of ready-to-deploy
space assets in case of wartime attrition of current assets, as well as the space government
and civilian infrastructure to launch those assets, Europe largely lacks the physical
hardware to replace any current losses in space, though it at least has adequate delivery
solutions thanks to the robust European Space Agency. Transportation, intelligence, and leadership
are NATO’s greatest weaknesses without the US, quickly followed by a severe lack of heavy
combat equipment needed to stop a modern combat force. Yet these are problems that can be overcome
with the refocusing of European military priorities, and in the long run, NATO could survive without
the United States. For the US’s part, any talk of leaving the
alliance would be tantamount to shooting itself in the foot, even if anger at shouldering
the bulk of the cost of European defense is itself not without merit. European forces have proven steadfast allies
for the United States in a variety of conflicts, and the seven decades of peace in Europe are
a testament to the ultimate victory of NATO, which has so far succeeded with all members
united in preventing a future war. Should the US leave or remain in NATO? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments! And if
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