Introduction and History
Who is in the Club?
Within Europe, France and Great Britain represented the two key anchors, although both had been decimated militarily, economically, and in terms of a military age population (much as both had been following the Napoleonic Wars and again by World War I). Iceland, also a founding member, has no military, although it does have a small Coast Guard and agreed to assist with training and logistics. Other founding members included Norway, Belgium, Luxemburg, Portugal, Denmark, Italy (a former Axis nation), and Holland. In 1952, Greece and Turkey were added. West Germany joined in 1955, with the last member before the USSR's collapse in 1999, Spain, becoming a member in 1982.
The 2% Solution...Or Problem?
That means the bulk of the costs falls on countries like France, the UK, and the US. As an aside, NATO member Turkey has become increasingly non-democratic in light of the rise of extremist Islam domestically and regionally, plus indirect conflicts with other allies of member nations such as Israel, South Africa, and India. This has become more significant since 1999 and the implosion of the USSR (more on that in a moment). So, given the shift away from a common cause, domestic politics and economics, changes in geopolitics, not to mention technology in terms of delivery systems, how practical is NATO really?
The Big Bear in the Room
Nevertheless, Russia created a "buffer" zone, comprised of countries it overran at the end of the Second World War out of which it created the seven member Warsaw Pact in 1955. These included Poland, East Germany, Albania, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia. In addition, there was Tito's Yugoslavia, and effectively, Finland (remember too that the USSR consisted of Russia proper along with 15 "republics"). In addition, Russia had (and still maintains) a sizeable nuclear "first strike" and redundant response capability. This provided an effective counterbalance to NATO. The alliance officially lasted until 1991, although East Germany left the previous year to reunite with West Germany.
Same Ole Fears...and Some Brand New Ones
Since the implosion of the USSR, Russia has emerged much more democratic and capitalistic, though not to the degree as the West, which, given Russia's history of absolute rule, makes perfect sense. Additionally, Russia has had a "love/hate" relationship with the West since at least the reign of Peter the Great. It's a nation with one foot in the West and the other in the Asiatic East. Perhaps of that, it has had a "redheaded stepchild" complex as well; it never quite fit in with the West or the East, though I think its preference was always towards the West. However, given its location far to the east of Europe's cultural and economic centers, periodic isolationism, and invasions from the West, it has rightfully developed something of a " twice bitten" mentality.
While most of us seriously doubt the US or any other NATO member would initiate an attack on Russia, the prospect, from their point of view, is certainly there, especially with the latest full scale NATO military "war games" taking place within miles of the Russian border. It would be like having nuclear weapons aimed at the US on our Mexican and Canadian borders along with both Canada, Mexico, and the rest of Latin America conducting "war games" aimed at us, including naval and air operations. It would make us feel a bit uncomfortable to say the least. Since the breakup of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact, Russia has formed a new, more economic, alliance with the nations of India, Brazil, and China (the so-called BRIC nations), plus close ties with Belarus, the Crimea, Syria and Iran (which has close ties to China as well).
Given the animosity between China and India, it's doubtful there would be any military cooperation between the two, however, there could be some independent cooperation directly with Russia. Besides, China and Russia could best be described as "frienemies". Iran would jump at the chance to challenge the West, and especially "the Great Satan", the US. Brazil might provide logistical support while Syria is mess and couldn't be expected to provide any assistance other than logistical. Meanwhile, both Belarus and Crimea are firmly attached to Russia by a common history and economic necessity.
Is There Common Cause?
Already, the US had dropped to second place in terms of the largest economy and is predicted to drop to third within the next decade. America has seen the near evaporation of the Middle Class and the widest income gap in its history. Academically, America barely makes the bottom half of the second tier (and in several subjects, America public schools are on par with some second and third world nations). There is an unprecedented disconnect between Washington and the rest of America, with Congress, the Presidency, and even Judicial System maintaining near single digit approval ratings. Lastly, America is no longer a "representative democracy", and hasn't been for awhile. It's now an Oligarchy; rule by a corporate plutocracy which operates hand in glove with the government.
How NATO is funded and who pays for what
Here's who is paying the agreed-upon share to NATO and who isn't
NATO Summit: Which members are not pulling their weight with defense spending?
How Vladimir Putin's military compares with the West