Saturday, April 20, 2024

League of Women Voters Hears from Speaker on NATO’s Future

The League of Women Voters-Williamsburg Area welcomed guest speaker Larry Wilkerson to the Williamsburg library for Tuesday’s Great Decisions lecture on NATO. Pictured (left to right): Don Schilling, Great Decisions chairperson, Col. Larry Wilkerson, guest speaker, Susan Bivins, League president, and Abra Smith, Great Decisions co-chairperson. (League of Women Voters-Williamsburg Area)

WILLIAMSBURG — The League of Women Voters-Williamsburg Area’s Great Decisions lecture series addressed a timely subject on Feb. 13: NATO’s Future.

Series attendees heard from a perennial favorite, Larry Wilkerson, who provided background and insight to current controversies regarding NATO and the war in Ukraine.

Just days earlier, former President Donald Trump made headlines by saying he would not defend current NATO members who have not fulfilled their financial commitments, even encouraging attackers to “do what they want.”

Wilkersons career includes 31 years in the army, working as special assistant to Colin Powell when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and during his tenure as Secretary of State. Most recently, Wilkerson was the Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy at William & Mary.

According to the League of Women Voters, Wilkerson’s talk began with the early days of NATO, whose goal, as expressed by its first Secretary General, was to keep Russia out, America in, and Germany down.” Once an agreement among only 12 countries, it has added new members nine times since, with a current membership of 31.

That growth concerns Wilkerson, who said in his talk he agrees with a statement made by a military officer in the essay in the briefing book created by the Foreign Policy Association that was distributed to attendees: I am not sure what NATO exists for anymore.”

“He usually ends his speeches with some positivity, but he didnt today. His perspective is so different from what you get in the media,” said audience member Elizabeth White. “We need to learn to play better in the sandbox.”

According to the League of Women Voters, Wilkerson explained there was an unofficial agreement between President George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev, the final leader of the Soviet Union, that NATO would not expand further east. Thus, the more NATO has expanded toward Russia, the more something like the invasion of Ukraine became inevitable. Wilkerson also cautioned that the U.S. has multiplied the number of enemies it has in the world.

I think this is the first time that I did not agree with Wilkersons conclusion,” said Jim Simpson, a perennial participant in Great Decisions. We need to defend the alliance from Russia and China. Adding Finland and Sweden got NATO back with a greater mission and a fuller European alliance. Theres good news in the Asia-Pacific, too. The Philippines are not joining up with China, and Japan is opening up its neutrality.”

Find out more about the series at Great Decisions 2024 Schedule — League of Women Voters of Williamsburg Area.

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