Make NATO a Priority This Election

For a liberal, my election priority is not exactly typical. Perhaps it is due to my upbringing as a military “brat” or my devotion to my late husband—a NATO fighter pilot. Yes, there are important election issues like protecting women’s rights and the environment. Folks are concerned about affording groceries and gas. Healthcare, homelessness, immigration, education, gun control, and a host of other things affect us all. But protecting democracy should be our primary focus this election year, and NATO is key to that. Let me explain.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO in English and OTAN in French) is our oldest peacetime alliance. Shortly after WWII, the British initiated an effort to contain Stalin’s expansion. This effort became an organization of countries referred to as NATO; in 1949 the U.S. became a member. It is not quite true to say it was established solely to unite against the Soviet communist threat. Europe had just gone through a devastating war that resulted in large part from militaristic nationalism, so NATO was also an effort to squash that. It’s great to support your own country and culture, but not to the exclusion of other nations, and certainly not to subjugate them. For me, nationalism is a dirty word when used by the far right-wingers.  Perhaps it is because I have lived and traveled all over the world, meeting and interacting with people from various cultures and places. People everywhere want the same things: happiness, food and shelter, protection for their family. I see the world through multicolored lenses, with excitement and potential. I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given as an American, but I bristle at the idea of American exceptionalism and the constant flag waving and shouting that we are the best.

History tells us what happens when the U.S. decides to hide and become isolated. I’m referring to WWII, of course. We need friends. Imagine a schoolyard with a big bully. You’re the small kid who has no chance of standing up to the bully. But if you link arms with the other kids—the nice kids—and tell the bully that if he picks on one of you, he has to deal with all of you, well, this is the simplest form of détente. Peace through strength is a motto of NATO. This organization is really just a group of 32 “mostly” friends who will consider any aggression on one as an aggression on all (Article 5 of the NATO Treaty). There will always be bullies like Putin. It should be obvious why NATO is so important today. Finland and Sweden certainly think so, as does Ukraine. But what does this have to do with the 2024 election?

Trump tried to take the U.S. out of NATO when he was President. Of all the protests and rallies I attended during his four years in the White House, this was the protest I was angriest about. I donned my late husband’s NATO flying scarf and stood on a street corner with my “Protect NATO” sign. I could not believe a U.S. president wanted to turn his back on our allies and instead side with dictators. Friends do not abandon friends. Those friends include countries that many Americans have visited and loved, countries like France, Italy, and the U.K. And my favorite of them all—the Netherlands.

My late husband Eric E. Fiore was an F-15 fighter pilot in the USAF NATO forces during the Cold War. He was a part of the prestigious 32nd TFS, the Wolfhounds, stationed at Soesterberg/Camp New Amsterdam in the mid to later 1980’s. Living in the Netherlands changed our lives, as it did for many service members. We fell in love with this beautiful country, and Eric was always proud to have helped protect them and that part of Europe. Is there a threat to this most amazing of countries that was brutally occupied during WWII? Quite possibly. Peter the Great learned shipbuilding in the Netherlands (in Zaandam) and perhaps Putin has some bizarre notion that he should have that country for himself. Who knows what goes through the heads of evil dictators? It seems far-fetched to suggest such a thing, but is it, really?

Just a few months after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, I studied in the USSR. I’ve been back a couple times since, including a few days after the band Pussy Riot was arrested. I have many observations and stories about my trips, including how much I enjoyed meeting individual Russians and learning about their culture, but above everything else I want to tell the MAGAs in Congress and in the general public something. You do not want to be like Russia. You do not want to live there. It is a dictatorship with no freedom. Americans: most of you would not last a week. Please, please, please do not support any elected official who sides with Putin or thinks Russia is our friend. Individual Russians, certainly, but not the government. Pulling out of NATO will guarantee that our friends and allies are left vulnerable to the schoolyard bully. I adore my Dutch friends and those around the world, and I will use my vote to say that I will not abandon them. If we pull out of NATO, Putin will take Ukraine. Can you say genocide? The Baltics are next. Then Europe. Think it can’t happen? Trump has already announced his plans. He said at a rally that he would encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” if it attacked a NATO country that didn’t pay enough for defense. Or Trump will just pull the U.S. out of NATO completely and sit by while our friends are assaulted.

Democracy is being threatened here and around the world. We all have the power to save it. Vote wisely.

About the author:

Carol Fiore is the widow of USAF NATO F-15 pilot Eric E. Fiore. She is a staunch supporter of NATO and has written about it in her book “Flight through Fire.” The Militair Museum Soesterberg has an exhibit with several of Eric’s flying items. You’ll want to visit this outstanding museum if you are in the Netherlands.