by Investor’s Business Daily · July 10, 2018
NATO: For Eurocrats, there never seems to be any downside to insulting President Trump, a man the EU’s suave socialists love to hate. It has been on display as Trump prepares to meet with his fellow NATO members during his trip to Europe.
Typical was the snarky, disrespectful reception for Trump prepared by European Council President Donald Tusk, on the eve of the much-awaited NATO meeting: “First of all, dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don’t have that many.”
Tusk went on, talking about how Trump was “criticizing Europe almost daily for, in his view, insufficient contributions to the common defense capabilities, and for living off the U.S.”
He meant it to be snide and sarcastic. But Tusk’s criticism is notable because, in fact, Trump’s comments happen to too true. It’s been an open secret for decades.
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The European Union has used hefty U.S. defense spending and its willingness to send American troops into harm’s way to protect Europe. It is in effect a kind of social welfare subsidy: We spend money on arms, they build ever-more generous welfare states.
And then, from the safety of their left-leaning think tanks, universities and EU bureaucracies, they complain about American “militarism,” “imperialism,” and “aggression.”
It’s getting tiresome, but it bears repeating. NATO’s 28 members are required by the treaty that established the mutual defense organization to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense.
In 2016, President Obama’s final year in office, the U.S. spent 3.6% of its GDP on defense, Greece 2.4%, the U.K. 2.2%, Estonia 2.16% and Poland 2%. Everyone else was below 2%. Everyone.
And note that those that are pulling their weight are among Europe’s poorest nations. The others should be ashamed, but shame is in short supply in Europe these days.
It’s the equivalent of going to a group dinner and, when presented with the check, having 23 diners come up short on the bill. And then ridiculing those who make up the difference.
This year, after President Trump’s repeated criticisms, NATO’s “burden-sharing” will be better, but only marginally so. Just eight members will reach that lofty 2% goal. Remember, the U.S. has always exceeded it.
A recent commentary on the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) web site admits as much.
“European and American experts alike, including Trump’s staunchest foes, admit that the president has a point and that Europeans should spend more on defense,” write Jeremy Shapiro.
A heart-felt mea culpa? Hardly. Shapiro, ECFR’s director of research and an adjunct fellow at the Brookings Institution, goes on to accuse Trump of “bullying.”
If that’s bullying, Europe deserves it. Europe’s welfare states have never lived up to their part in the defense bargain. In the 1990s, when President Clinton was in office, European NATO forces were embarrassed at not being able to handle a conflict in the Balkans, right outside the EU’s border. American airpower had to be brought in to end the conflict.
Today, the media and internet web sites remember it as a “NATO” triumph. But the fact is, no U.S., no NATO.
If Europe learned anything from that conflict, it’s not apparent. A piece in The National Interest last week, citing the German magazine Der Spiegel, carried the headline: “Germany’s Air Force Is Dying a Slow Death.” It notes that the air force of Germany, continental Europe’s wealthiest nation, has 128 Eurofighter Typhoons, a potentially potent force. Unfortunately, “only about ten of the aircraft are ready for operations.”
You can bet with Germany’s Angela Merkel preoccupied with Brexit, NATO, a wave of immigration, and a growing political challenge from the Trump-like German right, the German Luftwaffe is pretty low on her list of priorities. And they’re the wealthy ones. In nation after nation, other wealthy Europeans have made common defense a low priority.
Maybe it’s an end-of-civilization death wish: they think invasion and eventual takeover by uninvited invaders would be a good idea.
At any rate, the U.S. has a minimal 30,000 troop presence in Europe today as a token commitment to Europe’s defense.
NATO Overmatched By Russia
But, according to globalfirepower.com, Russia, Europe’s most likely adversary in a conventional war or conflict, has 766,000 men under arms, with another two million or so in reserve. Europe simply isn’t ready to defend itself, and despite U.S. spending on NATO over the years, our presence there isn’t big enough to repel a major Russian incursion.
And that doesn’t include the various NATO engagements in the Mideast and elsewhere, as part of the ongoing battle against terrorist activities.
The point is, Europe’s NATO members must boost their efforts to defend themselves and carry their weight. These nations are still capable of excellence: A look at the final four nations in the World Cup soccer final are all NATO members. It’s a matter of priorities.
We know, President Trump’s brusque tough-love is about as far away from the genteel, class-conscious European diplomatic sensibility as an American leader can get. But NATO’s European members — Turkey, once a valued member, now a pariah, should be kicked out — need to listen to Trump. Europe is endangering itself and its allies by its lackadaisical defense posture. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.
Time to pay up, and make NATO a true common defense force, or admit NATO is a shell of its former self, and dismantle it.