Trump Says No More ‘Free Milk’ for NATO Free Loaders

trump nato
Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0

By Mark Serrano for RealClearDefense

The mainstream media and political establishment are outraged over Donald Trump’s latest comments about NATO. Instead of all the dramatic pearl-clutching, they should be embracing his position.

Trump recently issued a stern warning to America’s NATO allies, specifically those who are still failing to uphold their commitment to spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense. Recounting a conversation he had with the leader of a delinquent NATO member who sought reassurance that America would defend their country from Russian attack, Trump declared that he would let Russia do “whatever the hell they want” to NATO countries that refuse to make minimum expenditures toward their own defense.

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This isn’t a new concept, and it’s not nearly as “shocking” as the media and political elites want you to think it is.

For the past 70 years, NATO has maintained a baseline defense spending guideline that is understood and formally agreed to by all 31 member states. In 2014, the alliance members agreed to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense by 2024. This makes perfect sense. What good is an alliance if one or more parties to the agreement let their military capabilities atrophy to the point where they can’t render meaningful aid in an emergency?

Sadly, only 18 out of 31 NATO members are currently meeting their defense spending obligation. The list of delinquents includes countries that should be among NATO’s leading militaries, such as France, Germany, Canada, Italy, and Turkey. Notably, almost all the countries that face a credible threat from Russia – such as Poland, Hungary, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, and Finland – are already spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense.

American politicians, primarily on the Republican side, have been pointing out for decades that European nations have been sheltering under the American defense umbrella for free and spending their savings to prop up massive welfare states. The only reason they could afford to do this is because the United States made clear that it would come to their aid without question or reservation if they were ever attacked.

Why buy the cow when you’re getting the milk for free?

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Donald Trump holds the same view that has long been mainstream in conservative circles – our NATO allies should spend enough to maintain credible military deterrence, both to lessen the likelihood that they will need US aid, and to make them more effective partners in the event that the US requires their assistance.

Remember: Article 5 of the NATO treaty states that an attack on one is an attack on all. We’re supposed to treat an attack on Warsaw or Paris like an attack on Washington, D.C., and vice versa. But as we saw the one and only time Article 5 was invoked – after the 9/11 attacks – most of our NATO allies are woefully unprepared to engage in any kind of military conflict.

The biggest problem is that they have little incentive to do otherwise. The U.S. Navy secures freedom of the seas all around the globe. The U.S. nuclear arsenal provides credible deterrence against hostile actors. The U.S. Air Force and Army are positioned in close proximity to all our allies to allow for rapid reaction to any emerging threat, anywhere in the world.

When Trump was president, he made significant progress toward getting our allies to meet their commitments. But they still have a long way to go.

One comparatively cheap way countries such as France and Germany could mollify American concerns, which has not been publicly discussed so far, is to start using their militaries to help America out.

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Upon taking office in 2025, Donald Trump could invoke Article 5 in response to the ongoing invasion of illegal immigrants across our southern border. Countries who agree to send troops to help us police the border could buy themselves additional time to get their defense spending up to the 2 percent minimum, or perhaps even secure a permanent reprieve.

Deploying troops to help secure America’s southern border would send a powerful signal that NATO remains relevant in the 21st Century, and that our allies take their responsibilities to help with mutual defense seriously. Perhaps more importantly, it’s difficult to imagine a more effective way to get in President Trump’s good graces than to help him solve the illegal immigration problem, which has animated his policy platform from the moment he entered politics.

It certainly worked for Mexico. In his recent speeches, Trump has effusively praised the Mexican government for sending 28,000 troops to their own southern border to stop illegal immigrants from crossing into America through Mexico, saying he viewed that as Mexico’s way of paying for the border wall.

One way or the other, our delinquent NATO allies are going to have to put up or shut up. Trump’s odds of reclaiming the White House are growing by the day, and part of the reason for that is that voters support him taking a tough stance with “allies” who refuse to bear their share of the burden for mutual defense.

American taxpayers are tired of footing the bill for free riders. The only ones who should be concerned about Trump’s latest NATO comments are the European politicians who have refused to honor their commitments to the alliance.

Mark Serrano is the founder and president of ProActive Strategies and was a senior advisor for the 2020 Trump Campaign.

Syndicated with permission from RealClearWire.

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