In the wake of Russia's invasion of Georgia, and Germany's quasi-support for that move, STRATFOR's founder penned "The German Question." It's pretty fundamental, if you want to understand the limits of NATO in the modern world - a subject that's very important if the new administration decides to rely on NATO as a bulwark. STRATFOR:
"Germany does not favor NATO expansion. More than that, the Germans at least implicitly told the Russians that they have a free hand in the former Soviet Union as far as Germany is concerned - an assertion that cost Berlin nothing, since the Russians do enjoy a free hand there. But even more critically, Merkel signaled to the Russians and the West that Germany does not intend to be trapped between Western ambitions and Russian power this time. It does not want to recreate the situation of the two world wars or the Cold War, so Berlin will stay close to France economically and also will accommodate the Russians.
The Germans will thus block NATO’s ambitions, something that represents a dramatic shift in the Western alliance. This shift in fact has been unfolding for quite a while, but it took the Russo-Georgian war to reveal the change.
NATO has no real military power to project to the east, and none can be created without a major German effort, which is not forthcoming...."
Now pair his analysis with observations like the fact that Germany's defense spending is fluctuating around 1% of GDP, and that it has seriously downsized its military and sold off the bulk of its equipment. Europe's unwillingness to defend itself on so many levels is certainly an issue, but STRATFOR points out that there a much larger strategic issue at play in a key country. This issue helps to explain why NATO's eastward expansion has been so slow and difficult, and could not have extended farther east. It also leaves many of the alliance's eastern members is a situation reminiscent of the 1930s - dependent on guarantees that are now worth very little. They have not yet adjusted their fiscal realities to this fact. Time will tell whether they will.