"Neo-realists" (like John Mearsheimer) argue that the US should simultaneously exit NATO (because the US should focus on the Chinese threat in Asia) and convince the EU to cut all economic ties with China, i.e. stop "feeding the beast" to quote Mearsheimer.

These two goals seem at odds with each other, if one considers that e.g. the US had trouble getting the EU to mirror much of its trade war with China. And where the US was somewhat successful was in lobbying against Huawei in European countries that the US has very good defense relations with. Assuming the US exists such a close defense relationship, it's somewhat hard to see how they could convince many EU countries to do much of anything that the US wants. So how do the "neo-realists" propose that the US can influence EU economic policy (vis-a-vis of China) after the US exits NATO?

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    I'm not qualified to answer this question. However I would have thought that the one sure way of allowing the China "beast" to achieve world pre-eminence would be for a split to arise in the two major western power blocks - the EU and the USA. A closer alliance would seem to me to be called for if our western way of life is to be preserved.
    – WS2
    Jun 15, 2022 at 7:39
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    I don't know whether this is proposed by neo realists but the US could just try an economic ultimatum: either you trade with China or you trade with us, but not both. It seems reasonable that if the EU countries were forced to choose they would choose the US. Whether this is a good or realistic idea is of course a very different question.
    – quarague
    Jun 15, 2022 at 8:59
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    @quarague "It seems reasonable that if the EU countries were forced to choose they would choose the US." At least in the short to medium term the EU is more dependent economically on China than on the US. Forcing the issue like that would kill the global economy.
    – Roland
    Jun 15, 2022 at 9:25
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    @Roland And if the US were forced to choose, I think there is little doubt, once they had added up the dollars and cents, and the effect on their own employment markets, that they would choose the EU. The problem with China trade to both EU and US is that it mostly tends to be in one direction.
    – WS2
    Jun 15, 2022 at 9:48
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    is he really saying the US should leave NATO? or is he saying that the US needs to pull some troops out of Europe and pivot to the Pacific, while asking the Europeans to pull more of their weight in Europe and stop buying so much Chinese goods? Most of NATO is entirely unsuited to contain China militarily even given good intentions - most NATO nations power is primarily land-based - so the 2nd option has a bit of common sense, while the 1st, as stated here lacks any common sense. No, not gonna watch a vid to figure out what he's saying. Jun 16, 2022 at 23:58

1 Answer 1


I don't think the question, as asked, reflects exactly what M. says at that particular point in the video:

He basically says "we can't do all this stuff in Europe and we need to get out of Europe and let Europeans take care of their own defense."

I want to make crystal clear the word NATO is not used in that particular segment, only Europe.

Now, let's run with that for a second. Most of NATO's European members could, realistically, if they chose to, take care of security on their continent (i.e. contain Russia). But they cannot act in Asia, as they don't have the force projection capability to do so and very limited navies.

France and the UK are partial exceptions.

If China indeed needs containment then it would make sense for the US to reapportion its military forces to the Pacific while remaining in NATO to "keep the Europeans" onboard.

And, if China needs to be contained, then it would make sense for the West - both the US and Europe - to uncouple from it as much as possible economically. Or at least hold out the possibility of doing that in negotiations with China - I think we should very much aim to avoid Cold War 2.

The reverse, buying lots of stuff from a hostile power, can have its downside, as we are seeing with Putin's Russia.

Obama's Pivot to the Pacific is already a step in that direction. The link I chose isn't particularly supportive of that initiative, but it doesn't need to be, it's just dissecting Obama's approach which was pretty much a toned-down version of M's suggestion here. I tend to be more sympathetic to the pivot myself, but none of it requires leaving NATO.


I did not watch the rest of that one hour video, nor do I intend to. Just answering this question with regards to what was asked in it, from that particular segment.

p.s. Unlike Russia, China is successful in its own right and it may be possible to bring relations to a soft landing. But, also unlike Russia, China, based on its economy and technology, has a tremendous potential as a military adversary in the mid/long term, say on a 15-30 year horizon. Which makes M's musings not entirely unproductive even if they fly in the face of common views right now.

p.p.s. What ws2 says in the comments bears repeating: I would have thought that the one sure way of allowing the China "beast" to achieve world pre-eminence would be for a split to arise in the two major western power blocks. And that's what Trump got so massively wrong.

p.p.p.s. Not endorsing M's claims on this subject as a whole. Reading an older paper of his on the subject it seems to over-simplify intra-European dynamics: "Germany will aim to dominate cuz Germany". So does a recent article in the Economist: "Russia's invasion was caused by the West": A thought provoking article, certainly, but also equally one-sided. Still not convinced by the framing of this question.

  • Even if he doesn't literally say that the US should "exit NATO", US exiting Europe's defense is pretty much the same thing, leaving NATO at best as a "political project"... which he simultaneously says NATO is not. So that leaves NATO a "zero" (from his/US perspective) in every sense, to use one of his favorite words. Jun 17, 2022 at 2:25
  • @fizz his position, as presented in your question's title, is lunatic. as stated in the segment you cite to frame your question, considerably more defensible. If you would point us to text, where we can read the entire thing quickly, then we can discuss it more relevantly. as it is, I don't think we should be expected to view an hour of video to judge whether or not your question accurately reflects his views, so that we can begin to answer your question. leaving NATO is not the same thing as drawing down US military assets in Europe. simple as that. Jun 17, 2022 at 2:36

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