During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump called on European allies to spend more on defense, even calling NATO “obsolete.”
It appears that Trump is serious about getting European nations to do more for their own defense. The president has enlisted British Prime Minister Theresa May to ask NATO members to pay more, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis had the same message in his visit to NATO headquarters last week.
But some European leaders are balking at Trump’s demands. They’re being led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who says there are other international priorities that are more pressing for her country to spend money on. “We must do more here, no question, but the matters of development aid and crisis prevention are also important” said Merkel according to The Telegraph. In fairness to the Germans, they have steadily increased spending.
Merkel has the European Union on her side. The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Junker, said that EU members should not be pushed into “an increase of defense spending.” Junker said, “If you look at what Europe is doing in defence, plus development aid, plus humanitarian aid, the comparison with the United States looks rather different. Modern politics cannot just be about raising defence spending.”
Essentially, these European states want to fund other states around the world instead paying for their own defense. If Trump is serious about making Europe pony up, he should be willing to expel some of these countries from NATO.
But Germany and the EU are not speaking for all of Europe. Some European countries are beginning to take their own defense seriously. The Baltic states, who were former members of the Soviet Union, have doubled their defense spending since 2014. Polish citizens have created militias that have been officially adopted by the Polish government.
The fact of the matter is that Europe has to do more for itself. European countries are on the front lines of any possible aggression by Russia or Iran, and they are the ones suffering the most from Islamic terrorism.
Europe has a choice to make. They can choose to prioritize their welfare states and foreign aid, or they can start paying their fair share for defense.