Brief #36—Foreign Policy

Trump met with NATO leaders in Brussels on July 11th, marking the beginning of a week-long trip which would later include a visit to Britain and a summit with President Putin in Finland. “I have NATO, I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think? Who would think?” Trump commented upon departing from the White House. The NATO summit was just as contentious as his remarks foreshadowed. Trump continued his campaign of abuse against fellow NATO leaders over a perceived lack of commitment to military spending, referring to them as “delinquent” for not yet reaching the goal set in 2014 to reach 2% of GDP spending for defense. He went as far as to ask for 4% defense spending from all NATO nations. Trump’s ire was focused primarily on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and accused the country of being “totally controlled by Russia”. The source of this claim is a $10 billion pipeline project from Russian energy giant Gazprom which has now been confirmed to pass through German territory. Despite the rhetoric, Trump still agreed to sign onto a joint statement reaffirming previous goals and commitments. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was wholly non-confrontational in the face of Trump’s insults, agreeing that more military spending was indeed necessary.

The accepted implication of Trump’s remarks is that the failure of European allies to divert a sufficient amount of spending towards defense creates an unnecessary burden for the United States to overspend. Trump presents the United States as a country suffering to defend its allies. Of course, the Trump administration has no real incentive to ever reduce defense spending. Increasing our military arsenal has been a frequent talking point, and Congress has been working on passing a massive bipartisan spending increase. The United States is by far the largest arms dealer in the world and convincing allies to increase spending is a top priority for domestic business interests.

Trump’s attitude towards NATO threatens to undermine a seventy-five year old alliance between America and its European allies that has helped preserve peace and stability throughout Europe since the end of World War II. Article V of the NATO Agreement calls for all NATO countries to come to the defense of countries in the alliance when they are attacked. This article was invoked after 9/11 when America’s European allies rushed in to provide help to the US. European members of NATO have fought side by side with the US in countries like Bosnia and Afghanistan. It is impossible to put a price on what NATO has contributed to peace and stability in much of the world. All this is in play now that Trump is breaking NATO down into a business transaction of who pays for what.

Resistance Resources

  • World Beyond War – An organization dedicated to reducing militarization around the world
  • Amnesty International – A longstanding human rights organization which has led protests in Europe opposing Trump’s policies over the past two weeks.

Learn More: Here is the joint statement signed by all NATO representatives

This Brief was authored by Colin Shanley

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