“We can no-longer depend upon the United States” has become an increasingly common statement uttered by European politicians. They are of course referring to Donald Trump’s demand that European NATO member states start contributing more to the collective defense of the Western Hemisphere. The US currently ponies up about 70% of the total cost of NATO. NATO countries have committed to spend 2% of GDP on defense within 2020 (I think?). The US is currently at 4,7 (approx). The response to Trump’s wish for the European partners to step up their efforts prior to the agreed upon date have been endless histrionics. European politicians are outraged that someone would dare to press them on this issue. How dare Trump demand fairness and burden sharing?
To me, the claims that European nations have to look inward for defense, since they are unable to continue to depend on the US are the epitome of hypocritical foolhardiness. Two measly percent of GDP on something as important as defense isn’t breaking the bank. Being a part of NATO and in effect enjoying the benefits of being subsidized by American taxpayers is far cheaper than stepping up spending domestically in the European sense. Having the US involved in the mutual defence agreement is a major force multiplier and effective guarantee against external agression. It says a lot about the moral fiber and common decency of the European political class when they throw a hissy fit over the very reasonable demand that they excelerate their plans for reaching the 2% NATO goal.
Fundamentally, I think that these politicians don’t have the right to critizise Trump as long as they have been guilty of a dereliction of duty. I will speak about the Norwegian situation, since that is the one I’m most familiar with. It is well known that the funding levels for the Norwegian military are woefully inadequate for providing a credible defense. The goal of the Norwegian armed forces is to run a successful delaying action in order to create time for help to arrive from our allies. A newly leaked secret readiness report confirms what we all already knew deep down. The military is not in the least able to fulfill this task. The navy doesn’t have enough sailors to operate their ships, the army lacks artillery, transportation and so on.
The government has for good or ill, a monopoly on violence. They will come after anyone else possessing military hardware. Therefore the job of defense must be provided by the government. Successive governments by different ruling coalitions and parties have all failed in providing the citizenry with a credible defensive capability. They have forfeited the right to critisize Trump on the issue of defense. Norway as a case study falls way short of the 2% goal, being closer to 1,4%. Having Trump push the slimy political class is therefore a good thing. Put crudely, our politicians should kiss Trump’s shoes and be thankful that the US allows this sorry state of affairs to continue. Trump as head of the US in practice has veto/dictatorial powers over NATO.
If Trump threatened to pull the US out of NATO unless “X” happened, the other side would have no realistic choice than to agree forthwith. If however the situastion was different, things would be different as well. If Norway and the other moocher nations were contributing the agreed upon 2%, then they could criticise Trump and the US with their heads held high. Until that time, which it is far from certain is going to happen in the near future, European misers should think twice before antagonizing the guarantor or a free Europe.