Easy Solution to the Trump-EU NATO Military Spending Problem
Ahead of the NATO summit, Trump lashed out at the EU.
Trump Says "NATO is Obsolete"
The New York Times reports Trump Derides NATO as ‘Obsolete.’ Baltic Nations See It Much Differently.
As President Trump joins his second NATO summit meeting — having called the alliance “obsolete,” derided its members as deadbeats and suggested that American military protection is negotiable — there is deep unease on the alliance’s eastern flank. And that sense has only been heightened by Mr. Trump’s scheduled one-on-one meeting next week with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
Trump a Threat to EU Security?
Here's a hoot. Eurointelligence founder Wolfgang Münchau says Trump is a Threat to EU Security and Prosperity.
As I have commented before, I highly respect Münchau's view on what is happening at the moment. And as I have also commented, I nearly always disagree on the Eurointelligence solution.
His solution this time is as silly as any that he has proposed to date.
"Years of spending cuts degraded the armed forces’ hardware to the point that only a small number of fighter aircraft are combat-ready," says Münchau.
Münchau notes that Germany spent 1.22% on defense last year, Italy 1.13% and Spain 0.92%.
Defense Against What?
Why does the EU need tanks, fighter aircraft, submarines?
Is the EU under any realistic theat? Where? By what country?
Before you answer incorrectly, please consider another idea.
NATO is Obsolete
Like Trump, the National Interest says (and I agree) NATO is Obsolete.
After the alliance was established in 1949, its first secretary general, Lord Hastings Ismay, summed up its purpose concisely: “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” The unofficial mission matched the time well: Western Europe’s postwar future was clouded by the prospect of a Soviet invasion, American insularity, or German militarism—all possible given the preceding decades of history.
Nearly seventy years later, none of these concerns still exist. Despite endless searches for a new mission to justify its massive burden on U.S. taxpayers, NATO has failed to be of much use since then.
One of the worst free-riders is Canada, which spends just 1 percent of its GDP on security, amounting to $20 billion. Furthermore, Germany spends a similarly pathetic 1.2 percent.
Last year, the alliance welcomed Montenegro. It is now poised to admit the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which would mean the United States is pledged to defend a nation that devotes just $120 million per year to its own defense, not quite as much as the Cincinnati Police Department.
But the reality is there is no truly capable Russian foe seriously threatening the West. Russia has one million uniformed personnel in its military, the world’s second-largest behind America, but the European Union could easily afford to match that with its combined $17 trillion economy—ten times larger than Russia’s. However, it needn’t bother as Moscow spends just $61 billion on its overwrought military, which doubles as an employment program.
To get out of this abusive relationship, Trump should begin the process of limiting America's role in NATO. A good model is that of Sweden, which cooperates with NATO on some matters and not on others.
As part of this plan, Trump could mothball U.S. bases in Europe and shift most resources spent there and in the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific region, where China and Iran pose real threats to America—and against which NATO is irrelevant.
Europe is prosperous and treats America like a patsy. Let it stand on its own.
Close But No Cigar
The National Interest is certainly correct that the US should let The EU take care of itself.
And it is equally correct that Russia poses no threat.
The correct decision then, for Spain, France, Italy, etc, is to spend little on defense outside of border security.
Münchau wants the EU to waste money. For what purpose? The EU is in bad enough shape already.
Canada? New Zealand? Australia? Why should Canada, New Zealand, or Australia spend anything (once again not counting border security)?Arguably, Canada needs to spend nothing.
What About the US?
It's on the US that the National Interest really misses the boat.
The US spends close to 4% of GDP on defense, and that is likley a huge understatement. Why? The US plays games with categories. Much US military spending is hidden in other buckets.
Rather than forcing other countries to waste as much as the US, I propose we cut US military spending to 1% of GDP.
The US Military Budget in 2018 is just under $700 billion, exceeding the budget cap of $549 billion as established Budget and Control Act (BCA) of 2011.
Real GDP as of the first-quarter of 2018 was $17.372 trillion.
One percent of that would be roughly $174 billion. Let's round up to $200 billion. Since that would pose a huge economic shock, one might suggest getting there over time.
I could go along with that. Would $200 billion be enough for "defense"?
Of course. But it would not be enough for stationing troops in hundreds of countries and bombing countries at will for no reason.
The war in Afghanistan would end. So would US drone policy.
The US would make far fewer enemies if it minded its own business like China or spent as much as Canada did on defense.
Speaking of which, no one hates the US for its freedoms. People hate the US for its war-mongering hypocrisy.
The economic benefits of my simple solution would be tremendous.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock