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Old 03-04-2020, 07:10 AM
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Arrow NATO: US Strategic Dominance and Unequal Burden-Sharing Are Two Sides of the Same Coi

NATO: US Strategic Dominance and Unequal Burden-Sharing Are Two Sides of the Same Coin
By: Johannes Thimm - old post (reposted)German Institute for International & Security Affairs

The asymmetry in NATO contributions between the United States and Europa is no accident, Johannes Thimm writes. Europeans should not be too alarmed about President Trump’s threats to withdraw from the alliance – and instead follow their own priorities.

US President Donald Trump accuses Europe of exploiting the United States, because most NATO members, including Germany, spend less than 2 percent of their GDP on defense. He calls for a significant increase in defense budgets – most recently to 4 percent of GDP, and threatens that the US will otherwise abandon its alliance commitments. It is true that Europe benefits from American security guarantees, and the diagnosis of European “free-riding” is not completely unfounded either. However, this does not mean that the US is being taken advantage of. There are three important arguments here:

NATO provides practical support and legitimacy to US supremacy
First, even if NATO is viewed in purely transactional terms, leaving aside values like solidarity among allies, it is a good deal for Washington. Americans calling for more equal burden-sharing, including Trump himself, suggest that the US supports NATO mostly for altruistic reasons. In other words that America is doing Europe a favor. But this picture is incomplete. For the US military, NATO is a force multiplier, providing legitimacy to American power. European allies are engaged in numerous missions like Afghanistan, while the United States mostly calls the shots. US bases in Europe not only protect European allies, but serve as logistics hubs to project power into the Middle East. These are assets the US military would not want to give up.

US defense policy is made strictly on US terms.
Second, the US defense budget does not depend on Europe’s military spending. It is misleading to argue that Europe must spend more so that the United States can spend less. The Pentagon’s budget is determined by Washington’s assessment of the capabilities necessary to maintain US strategic dominance – on its own, not through any alliance. When Congress adopts the annual defense budget, European expenditures play a marginal role. In 2017, President Trump increased the US defense budget, despite the fact that European states also spent more (and Russia’s spending decreased by 20 percent). According to calculations by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, US spending on NATO and the defense of Europe amounts to $30 billion, or just over 5 percent of its defense budget. Comparing that figure to the roughly $240 billion of European spending for NATO, the imbalance no longer seems so great. Given these numbers, it is also hard to argue that Europe is principally to blame for a US defense budget of around $600 billion.

Looking specifically at the cost of the US nuclear arsenal, it becomes even clearer how detached the US budget is from burden-sharing in NATO. Washington defines the US nuclear strategy with little regard for Europe’s policy priorities. Over the next thirty years (calculated from 2017), Washington plans a massive qualitative nuclear build-up, spending $400 billion on modernizing its nuclear arsenal – in addition to the costs of maintaining existing systems. This move was partly a reaction to Russian aggression in Ukraine, but above all a concession by President Obama to the Republican Congress in exchange for its approval of the 2014 New START treaty, in which the United States and Russia pledged to limit numbers of strategic nuclear warheads. If Trump were really interested in reducing costs, he would make serious efforts on arms control. Instead, he refused Russia’s offer to extend the New START treaty beyond its 2021 expiration date and increased spending on nuclear weapons by almost 20 percent. So, yes, to some extent Europe is free-riding on US security guarantees. But the reasons include the US desire for unrivalled military and nuclear capabilities, and not simply European reluctance to spend money on defense.

US nuclear superiority is a key feature of NATO
This leads to the third point. The US nuclear umbrella is the core of NATO, which was deliberately designed that way. The principle of collective security under Article 5 of the NATO Treaty ultimately depends on nuclear deterrence, which is mainly American. The idea is that everybody, including the Russian government, is aware that an attack on a NATO member could trigger a nuclear war, and thus is deterred from trying it. American taxpayers bear considerable costs to maintain the US nuclear arsenal. But on the one hand no-one in the United States would be prepared to give up US nuclear superiority, and on the other the guarantee of protection discourages other countries from striving for nuclear status themselves (the same logic applies to the US alliances with Japan and South Korea). Because Trump has repeatedly questioned this model, Asian and European countries are now seeing calls to acquire their own nuclear weapons. It is doubtful whether US interests would be better served if a nuclear arms race broke out in Europe or Asia.

Most in US foreign policy circles are well aware of all this, and hardly anyone supports Trump’s questioning of alliance solidarity. Europe would be well advised to follow its own priorities in addressing its military weaknesses. One such priority could be to reduce dependency on the United States on other security issues not directly related to collective defense. The occasional outbursts from the White House should best be ignored. Focusing on the 2 percent target for defense spending will neither appease Trump nor make Europe safer.


Personal note: I take it once again NATO allies don't always think like we do. It seems we don't agree or have common agendas any longer. The original designs of NATO was thought to protect those members who adhere to the NATO decision makers. Stepping outside of the NATO agendas weakens the process by which it was organized. Over many Presidential changes since NATO was implemented - it seems this is partially true. Each Nation want's peace - but at what cost?

Who finances the issues of the day and who doesn't? I fear NATO will cease to exist in the very near future - as we've become more intolerant or lets say less capable of working together based on the original outlines of the NATO agreements. Is this good or bad? We are seeing divisions already - which are impeding the world order - as it once was.

Everything thing today is about money! Unity & Participation is lacking between many parties today because of money.

We see these NATO parties are now less to compromise as once were the goals of NATO. When one country exceeds the other's - then a separation seems to come into play.

The 2% up to 4% contributions to NATO seems more than several countries can sustain. Hence divisions erupt as some nations can't afford the added cost and are then subject to be excluded in NATO process or its operations.

I won't pretend to tell you I fully understand NATO but since the end of WWII. The smaller Nation's are not capable of the new NATO contributions their C.O.L. and their National Debt. do not grow like the larger countries. We know that Wars/Conflicts are the driver's of revenue needs. Whereas the welfare of the people now becomes secondary in most cases to sustain the needs of the military. Hence the people suffer.

We must rid ourselves of these ongoing Conflicts and War's - we could do much more to improve the world order and its society. A wishful thought isn't it. But its not the peoples fault its the Leadership of each Country that influences the final decisions. Bet a Bad Leader results in suppression of the people and less growth. A Good Leader and it improves its people's outlook and future growth. It's that simple.

But corruption is the downfall of any country and its people.


O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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