Wednesday, February 15, 2017

3 NATO Reforms Allies Should Expect From the Trump Administration - Zalmay Khalilzad

Leaders and policymakers from Europe and around the world will meet at the fifty-third Munich Security Conference on February 17–19. All eyes will be on Vice President Mike Pence, who will lead the U.S. delegation, which will include Defense Secretary James Mattis, for clues on the Trump administration’s approach to foreign and security issues confronting the world.

Given the positive evolution in the administration’s approach toward post–World War II alliances, as demonstrated during the visit of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, Pence is likely to express strong support for NATO. This is a welcome development. However, the vice president should use the speech and his bilateral meetings with European leaders to express U.S. commitment to NATO and make the case for reforming the alliance.

During the campaign and the transition, Trump made clear his belief that traditional U.S. alliances should be subjected to rigorous tests, both in terms of their relevance to current challenges and also regarding their commitment to equitable burden sharing between the United States and its allies. In these respects, he expressed particular skepticism about NATO, arguing that the United States is carrying the burden of too much of the alliance’s defense effort.

Since his inauguration, President Trump’s view of NATO and other U.S. alliances, particularly with Japan and South Korea, has turned positive. He told British prime minister Theresa May that he is “100 percent behind NATO.” He told the Japanese prime minister exactly the same with regard to the U.S.-Japan alliance in the face of the North Korean missile test. He has agreed to attend the NATO summit in May.

The change should be reassuring to allies who have been nervous about his earlier statements on NATO and U.S.-Japan alliance. This evolution brings the Trump approach to alliances more into the mainstream of U.S. foreign policy.

However, NATO needs to be strengthened and reformed. Although the alliance has played a significant role in American-led security efforts, particularly in Afghanistan, the alliance is not adequately prepared to address important current global threats. At the same time, non-U.S. NATO members have gutted their defense budgets since the end of the Cold War, with only four of our twenty-seven allies spending the required 2 percent of GDP.

To address both shortcomings, the Trump administration should pursue a three-part agenda, which must inform the vice president’s message in Munich. These concepts should constitute the administration’s NATO agenda before, during and after the May summit. - More, National Interest

3 NATO Reforms Allies Should Expect From the Trump Administration


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