President Donald Trump was rightly stirring things up in Europe on Wednesday over ally countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization who fail to meet their commitments of defense spending for their countries.
Take a listen to what Trump had to say.
He blasted ally countries who want to engage in socialism and give billions to the Russians while expecting the US to carry the most burden for their protection from Russia.
“So we’re supposed to protect you against Russia but they’re paying billions of dollars to Russia and I think that’s very in inappropriate,” Trump said. “And the former Chancellor of Germany is the head of the pipeline company that is supplying the gas. Ultimately, Germany will have almost 70% of their country controlled by Russia with natural gas. So you tell me, is that appropriate? I’ve been complaining about this from the time I got in.”
Of course, it isn’t appropriate. In fact, you could say these countries are breaking the treaty with their engagement of Russia, which is fine. Let them suffer the consequences of their actions.
Trump believes many of these countries are actually protecting Russia, not being protected from Russia.
“They’ll say wait a minute we’re supposed to be protecting you from Russia but why are you paying billions of dollars to Russia for energy?” Trump asked. “Why are countries in NATO, namely Germany having a large percentage of their energy needs paid to Russia and taken care of by Russia?”
Later on Wednesday, he tweeted out, “What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are their only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.”
What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are there only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2018
Trump said the US are the “schmucks” for paying for all this.
In June, Trump wrote a letter with the same criticisms of NATO. Business Insider reported at the time:
Trump’s criticisms have centered around financing, and he has often rebuked NATO members for falling short of the 2%-of-GDP defense-spending level to which alliance members have agreed.
He reiterated that criticism in letters sent to some of the NATO members that fell short of that spending threshold in the weeks ahead the organization’s summit on July 11 and July 12.
The only one to be made public was sent to Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. The June 19 letter, published by Norwegian newspaper VG, said Norway was “the only NATO Ally sharing a border with Russia that lacks a credible plan to spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense.”
In the letter, Trump said he “understand[s] domestic political pressures,” having faced them in the US, but it would “become increasingly difficult to justify to American citizens why some countries continue to fail to meet our shared collective security commitments.”
The letter followed a general template, tailored with language specific to the recipient country, US and foreign officials told Foreign Policy. The officials said the letter sent to Germany contained some of the harshest language —Trump himself has directed some of his most withering scorn at German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore,” Trump said during the 2016 election season. “NATO is costing us a fortune, and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money.”
“So, NATO is something that at the time was excellent,” he said. “Today, it has to be changed. It has to be changed to include terror. It has to be changed from the standpoint of cost because the United States bears far too much of the cost of NATO.”
Trump also told New York Times reporters that NATO is “unfair, economically, to us,” and said he was open to an alternative organization focused on counterterrorism.
The best thing we can do with NATO is end it. The solution is not difficult. Much like we need to simply pull out of the United Nations, we also need to pull out of NATO, but it seems there are too many warmongers in DC tied to the military industrial complex for that to happen.
Of course, I’m not the only one who thinks so either. Former Texas Congressman Dr. Ron Paul also has a similar view and expressed that in his latest Liberty Report by saying, “President Trump is making waves as he arrives in Europe for the NATO summit. Chiding Germany for benefitting from US protection against Russia while buying billions of dollars worth of Russian oil, he has captured the duplicity of European leaders. But the solution is not to browbeat them to spend more on their militaries. It’s to shut down NATO once and for all.”
Finally, Tyler Durden reminds us:
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As a reminder, NATO members agreed in 2014 to spend at least 2 percent of their respective GDP on defense by 2024. The goals are also for each country’s own defense budget, not payments into the alliance.
One glance at the current spending levels and it is clear that Trump is right.
You will find more infographics at Statista
As we noted previously, Trump is quite right that America’s NATO allies, particularly Germany and Canada, don’t spend enough on defense. Germany is reported to have less than twenty operational tanks. Canada’s armed forces appear to be smaller than the New York City police department.
But the Europeans ask, ‘defense against whom?’ The Soviet Union was a huge threat back in the Cold War when the mighty Red Army had 55,000 tanks pointed West. Today, Russia’s land and naval power has evaporated. Russia has perhaps 5,500 main battle tanks in active service and a similar number in storage, a far cry from its armored juggernaut of the Cold War.
More important, Russia’s military budget for 2018 was only $61 billion, actually down 17% from last year. That’s 4.3% of GDP. Russia is facing hard economic times. Russia has slipped to third place in military spending after the US, China and Saudi Arabia. The US and its wealthy allies account for two thirds of world military spending. In fact, the US total military budget (including for nuclear weapons and foreign wars) is about $1 trillion, 50% of total US government discretionary spending.
In addition, Russia must defend a vast territory from the Baltic to the Pacific. The US is fortunate in having Mexico and Canada as neighbors. Russia has North Korea, China, India, the Mideast and NATO to watch. As with its naval forces, Russia’s armies are too far apart to lend one another mutual support. Two vulnerable rail lines are Russia’s main land link between European Russia and its Pacific Far East.
You will find more infographics at Statista
Trump’s supplemental military budget boost this year of $54 billion is almost as large as Russia’s entire 2018 military budget. As for Trump’s claim that Europe is not paying its fair share of NATO expenses, note that Britain and France combined together spend more on their military forces than Russia.
In Europe, it’s hard to find many people who still consider Russia a serious threat except for some tipsy Danes, right wing Swedes, and assorted Russophobic East Europeans. The main fear of Russia seems concentrated in the minds of American neoconservatives, media, and rural Trump supporters, all victims of the bizarre anti-Russian hysteria that has gripped the US.