President Donald Trump came out swinging at the first pitch to commence the 2018 NATO summit. Considering how the organization has contributed to geopolitical tensions since the end of the First World War and taken from the pockets of U.S. taxpayers, Trump is going bridge and knocking it out of the ballpark. He can walk it off in extra innings if he made an announcement that confirmed the U.S. is leaving NATO.
Once again, NATO members are meeting in Brussels to discuss a series of threats and matters that can impact the integrity of the relic from the Cold War. But, thanks to President Trump, the world is asking several important questions, including: Is NATO even relevant anymore?
Before heading to Helsinki for his historic meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump has been rustling some feathers in Brussels, demanding that other nations pay their fair share. He also suggested that Berlin is being held “captive” by Moscow over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that sends gas from Russia to Germany’s northeastern Baltic coast.
He had yet to step foot in Brussels when he started tweeting up a storm:
“NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!
Getting ready to leave for Europe. First meeting – NATO. The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them. Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer. On top of that we lose $151 Billion on Trade with the European Union. Charge us big Tariffs (& Barriers)!”
Over the last year, Trump has regularly warned that the U.S. may not come to the aid of a NATO member and threatened to pull troops out of Europe. This is music to any libertarian’s ears.
Is President Trump right to use such rhetoric? Yes, but it is essential that he back it up with actions, too.
A Look at NATO Spending
Right now, the U.S. spends close to $700 billion on defense, compared to the U.K.’s $55.3 billion, Germany’s $45 billion, and Canada’s $22.4 billion. The U.S. accounts for 71% of NATO’s combined defense spending, while it also stations troops in Europe to help protect and defend allies.
Despite NATO members pledging in 2014 to increase their voluntary contributions, only a handful have kept their promises: the U.S., the U.K., Greece, Estonia, and Poland. Just five of the 28 NATO countries are paying an agreed-upon amount, and most countries are doling out an average of 1.4%. Some member states are even conceding that they will only commit to 1.5% by 2024.
NATO leadership largely agrees that this isn’t good enough, and Trump thinks it is time Europe does more to pay for its own defense. And some prominent officials concur.
Speaking in an interview with CNBC recently, Michael Fallon, the former British defense minister, believes Trump’s “criticisms are quite valid”:
“Last year, when Trump came to the Brussels (NATO) summit, I recall how he was brand new and everyone wanted to meet him, everybody wanted to see how he would react. And he made some of the same points that he’s been making recently and he made them there — that Europe has to do more in its own defense.
I think this time there will be more engagement with him. And not least because he’s going on from the summit to engage with President Putin and a lot of the members of NATO have a very strong interest in that, particularly Germany, but also those countries that border on to Russia.”
NATO Obligations Hurting Americans
NATO allies are obliged to come to the defense of their fellow members should they be attacked by a non-NATO country. For much of the group’s history, NATO has usually been about defending Europe, not North America, from the Soviet Union – an invasion of the U.S. or Canada was always unfeasible.
Now that the Soviet Union has fallen, leaving the organization without anything to do, NATO is looking for dragons to slay to defend its existence, depending on the U.S. to fund these extravagant pursuits.
This means, cash-strapped U.S. taxpayers will need to foot the bill should Turkey enter into a military conflict with Russia. Or, British taxpayers will be required to pay to defend Poland from the supposed threat from Russia. Or, Canadian taxpayers are mandated to help cover the cost of supporting another senseless U.S.-led eternal occupation of a foreign land, like Afghanistan.
Today, the primary mission for NATO is to expand its dominance and provoke Moscow. Neoconservatives, the left, and the media accuse Russia of being the aggressor in Europe, but a simple glance at a map shows Russia’s border is crowded with NATO countries. Like any other sensible nation would, Russia is only defending its borders from hostile foreigners.
How dare the Russians get so close to their own border!
Why should impoverished Greeks pay for these absurd objectives? Why should a household in Biloxi, Mississippi send finite resources to Brussels to poke the Putin bear? They shouldn’t.
Are the People Waking Up?
Soon after former President Harry Truman entered the U.S. into NATO, Senator Robert Taft (R-OH) warned about the dangers to domestic finances and geopolitical relations from such an endeavor. Since then, there has been very little widespread opposition or scrutiny to NATO’s existence – until now.
In addition to Trump’s lamentations on NATO, there is growing anti-NATO rumblings in Europe. Last year, tens of thousands of Slovakians signed a petition to encourage a referendum on the nation’s withdrawal from NATO 15 years after joining. There have been reports that Greece is thinking about exiting NATO. If Scotland ever became independent, it would automatically leave the group. A 2017 survey found that citizens of four NATO countries would pick Russia to defend them if threatened.
These are all positive developments. It’s about time.
Unfortunately, Trump’s combative words are not backed up by his government’s actions. The U.S. has sent troops to Poland, the government is deploying more boots on the ground in Europe, and Washington will spend more than $6 billion to boost U.S. presence in Europe to counter Russia’s rise.
On the eve of the NATO summit, European Council President Donald Tusk had a message for President Trump: “Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don’t have all that many.” This is a ridiculous statement. NATO is not an advocate of peace, it relies way too heavily on the U.S. to stay afloat, and the regime change and absorption of Ukraine contributed to souring relations between the U.S. and Russia. Sorry, Tusk, with a friend like this, who needs an enemy?
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