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Will Europe go nuclear if US quits NATO?

Feb 20


The NATO alliance secured almost a century of peace on the European continent, with the exception of smaller conflicts and minor wars, until Russia invaded Ukraine in Feb. 2022. This was one of the longest stretches of continuous peace in recorded European history. Yet American isolationist instincts are resurfacing, just as they did before World War II, especially among Donald Trump’s camp.

This situation has led some world leaders to ask a frightening question: If Donald Trump wins the election and then pulls the U.S. out of NATO (or otherwise refuses to defend NATO allies)–with the Russians still mobilizing for total war–what will happen to the smaller countries of Europe?

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan tries to tackle that question. He warns Americans not to give up on the most powerful alliance in human history and predicts dire consequences if Americans choose to go down that road.

Below is an excerpt from Peter’s Feb. 20 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

During a rally last week, former President Donald Trump stated that European allies that do not contribute enough to NATO (in his eyes) would not receive support if Russia were to attack them. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, we need to consider the repercussions of the US stepping away from the NATO alliance.

Trump can smell the populist/nationalist sentiment in the air and he’s going all in. While he might be on the extreme end of it right now, there’s ever-growing momentum in America taking us down that path. We’ve enjoyed decades of a largely peaceful Europe, but what happens if the Americans leave?

I would expect the Europeans to revert to their old ways, including renewed military competition and something even scarier for us Americans, nuclear proliferation. We all know how quickly places like Germany can ramp up military production.

Trump’s statements may seem wild and disconnected at the moment, but there’s more than just an election on the line here; all it would take is one country’s knee-jerk reaction to send us back to a not-so-peaceful Europe.

Hey everyone, Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Colorado, we had a nice little freeze fog and a touch of snow last night. So it’s a winter wonderland. Today we are going to talk about the after effect of Trump’s statement that he would not defend European troops. So I mean, let me deal with the substance of that first, and we’ll talk about the after effects. One way or another, I would argue that that is likely the path that we are on, that the Americans are in a populist nationalist mood, and Donald Trump may be at the extreme edge of that. But I see this topic kind of like his anti-China stances of five years ago, he’s sensing the feeling in the air, he’s getting ahead of it. Now.


Whether or not this is wise or not, that’s another issue. Me personally, I’m a bit of an internationalist. And I see the alliance with the Europeans as the greatest guarantor of peace, security and growth that we’ve ever had in human history. And to have 75 years in Europe without a war, that’s never happened in human history. This is one of the most war-torn places on the planet, arguably the most war-torn. And so to have everybody on the same side, more or less under the NATO alliance, which means under American strategic direction, has been great not just for the Europeans, but for the Americans. And remember, with the exception of the Civil War, we’re talking about the two most destructive wars in American history between World War One and World War Two. And if we do leave, there eventually will be a struggle for power on the continent, and we will get sucked back in. So I just see this as insurance policy, in addition to allow[ing] the projection of American power on a broader basis, anyway.


But the way that I view it is not the way that most Americans view it. And my general views on internationalism are ones that have been defeated soundly at the ballot box over and over and over for 30 years. So I’m a very small minority here.


But I think it’s also important to talk about what this will look like, when and if the United States ultimately backs away from the continent. So we know in Europe that almost all of the countries, with the possible exceptions of Poland, France and the United Kingdom, are not ready for any sort of renewed military competition, either with the Russians or among the Europeans themselves. And so if you do have a sudden upending of the security environment, because the Americans are suddenly nowhere to be found, countries are going to have to rearm. Now in some cases, like in Germany, we have seen historically, that they can very, very, very rapidly convert a lot of their industrial plant to military purposes. Remember that the Germany, Weimar Germany, was basically a failed state in 1929. And 10 years later, it was on the way to conquering pretty much the entire continent, it doesn’t take long, once you put your back into it, if you know what you’re doing. And the Germans certainly know how to build things. But that was in the pre-atomic age. And now there are other options, the Manhattan Project as carried out by the United States in 1943, to 1945. Yeah, that’s, we’re pushing 80 years ago. Now, folks, this is not new technology. And there are any number of countries in Europe that already have their own fully closed civilian nuclear fuel programs. And so the problem is not materials.


If you have a one gigawatt nuclear power plant, the waste plutonium from an a year of your operations is enough to easily make a half a dozen plutonium bombs, not to mention uranium bombs that could be pulled out of the low enriched uranium that you use for fuel. So getting access to materials is not a problem. The technology is decades old. And the countries that we think of when we think of nuclear proliferation, places like North Korea and Iran, I’m not saying that these are countries that we should ignore. But the countries that really go for nukes are the ones who don’t think that they can win or don’t think they’re ready for a conventional fight. And in a post-American scenario in Europe, that’s not Russia. That’s Poland. That’s Sweden. That’s Finland. That’s maybe Lithuania, and obviously, Germany. So the path that Trump would see us be put on and the path that the nationalism and the populism and the isolationism that is starting to course through both American policies would put us on leads to a new Cuellar Europe, with probably an additional half dozen countries, fielding not just tactical but strategic weapons of the countries that are there that have them already. France, of the United Kingdom and Russia, they certainly wouldn’t be giving them up. So careful what you wish for everything that seems like a fun knee jerk reaction is like yes, stick it to him. It has consequences because the other side gets a vote. And when you up in the strategic environment, what is defined as the other side gets a lot more complicated. All right, bye. For me everybody have a great day.

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