Tuesday, July 10, 2018

'No One Wants To Look Like Trump's Poodle': NATO Allies Gear Up For Brussels Summit

President Trump arrives in Brussels Tuesday for a summit at NATO, the latest pillar of the international order left wobbling by his adversarial approach to allies.

With his escalating complaints that the United States contributes more than its fair share to defense, and vague threats to countries that do not spend more, Trump is diluting the alliance's appearance of unity, say diplomats and analysts. And, the prospect of a less-than-committed U.S. has thrown some of Europe's military weaknesses into plain view.

The main idea behind the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, formed in 1949 in the first frost of the Cold War, is that an attack against one member state is considered an attack on the entire bloc, which should respond with actions.

The alliance invoked that concept after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. and deploys international forces alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan and other parts of the world. 

The United States outspends every country on the planet on the military, and its defense spending makes up more than two-thirds of NATO's indirect costs. For years, U.S. leaders have pressed allies to up their spending, rather than "holding our coats while we did all the fighting," as President Barack Obama put it in 2016.

The United States is projected to spend 3.5 percent of its gross domestic product on defense this year, according to new NATO estimates. Germany, Europe's largest economy, will put little more than 1.2 percent of GDP this year, and only a handful of member states are expected to spend at least 2 percent. The alliance agreed members should aim for the 2 percent goal within a decade after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, which cooperates with NATO, in 2014. 

However, allies seem more concerned by Trump's approach than his predecessors'. That's because he has shown he has no qualms about upending established policies or pacts with global partners, and because he has explicitly tied security issues to trade and economic ones.

Previously, trade and security were always considered separately, said Roland Freudenstein, head of research at the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies in Brussels.

"Through the entire post-World War II history, economic relations and security relations were largely compartmentalized in the Atlantic context," said Freudenstein. "They were independent of each other." 

He continued, "suddenly you have a situation where the U.S. president wants to connect the two things. And that is a change that Europe has a problem to deal with."

Tuesday's signing of a declaration on European Union-NATO cooperation is part of a plan to address those issues. - More, NPR

'No One Wants To Look Like Trump's Poodle': NATO Allies Gear Up For Brussels Summit


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