Is Amer­i­can headed for a NATO cri­sis?

Woonsocket Call - - OPINION - Pa­trick J. Buchanan is the au­thor of a new book, “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Bat­tles That Made and Broke a Pres­i­dent and Di­vided Amer­ica For­ever.”

Of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ex­plo­sion at An­gela Merkel’s Ger­many dur­ing the NATO sum­mit, it needs to be said: It is long past time we raised our voices.

Amer­ica pays more for NATO, an al­liance cre­ated 69 years ago to de­fend Europe, than do the Euro­peans. And as Europe freerides off our de­fense ef­fort, the EU runs trade sur­pluses at our ex­pense that ex­ceed $100 bil­lion a year.

To Trump, and not only to him, we are be­ing used, gouged, by rich na­tions we de­fend, while they skimp on their own de­fense.

At Brus­sels, Trump had a new beef with the Ger­mans, though sim­i­lar prob­lems date back to the Rea­gan era. Now we see the Ger­mans, Trump raged, whom we are pro­tect­ing from Rus­sia, col­lab­o­rat­ing with Rus­sia and deep­en­ing their de­pen­dence on Rus­sian nat­u­ral gas by jointly building the Nord Stream 2 pipe­line un­der the Baltic Sea.

When com­pleted, this pipe­line will leave Ger­many and Europe even more deeply re­liant on Rus­sia for their en­ergy needs.

To Trump, this makes no sense. While we pay the lion’s share of the cost of Ger­many’s de­fense, Ger­many, he said in Brus­sels, is be­com­ing “a cap­tive of Rus­sia.”

Im­politic? Per­haps. But is Trump wrong? While much of what he says en­rages Western elites, does not much of it need say­ing?

Ger­many spends 1.2 per­cent of its gross do­mes­tic prod­uct on de­fense, while the U.S. spends 3.5 per­cent. Why?

Why – nearly three decades af­ter the end of the Cold War, the col­lapse of the War­saw Pact, the crackup of the Soviet Union and the over­throw of the Com­mu­nist dic­ta­tor­ship in Moscow – are we still de­fend­ing Euro­pean na­tions that col­lec­tively have 10 times the GDP of Vladimir Putin’s Rus­sia?

Be­fore de­part­ing Brus­sels, Trump upped the ante on the al­lies, urg­ing that all NATO na­tions raise the share of their GDPs that they de­vote to de­fense to 4 per­cent.

Brus­sels may dis­miss this as typ­i­cal Trumpian blus­ter, but my sense is that Trump is not bluff­ing. He is vis­i­bly los­ing pa­tience.

Though Amer­i­can lead­ers since John Fos­ter Dulles in the 1950s have called for a greater de­fense ef­fort from our al­lies, if the Euro­peans do not get se­ri­ous this time, it could be the be­gin­ning of the end for NATO.

And not only NATO. South Korea, with an econ­omy 40 times that of North Korea, spends 2.6 per­cent of its GDP on de­fense, while, by one es­ti­mate, North Korea spends 22 per­cent, the high­est share on earth.

Ja­pan, with the world’s third-largest econ­omy, spends an even smaller share of its GDP on de­fense than Ger­many, 0.9 per­cent.

Thus, though Seoul and Tokyo are far more men­aced by a nu­clear-armed North Korea and a ris­ing China, like the Euro­peans, both con­tinue to rely upon us as they con­tinue to run large trade sur­pluses with us.

We get hit both ways. We send troops and pay bil­lions for their de­fense, while they re­strict our ac­cess to their mar­kets and fo­cus on cap­tur­ing U.S. mar­kets from Amer­i­can pro­duc­ers.

We are giv­ing the world a les­son in how great pow­ers de­cline.

Amer­ica’s sit­u­a­tion is un­sus­tain­able eco­nom­i­cally and po­lit­i­cally, and it’s trans­par­ently in­tol­er­a­ble to Trump, who does not ap­pear to be a turn-the-oth­ercheek sort of fel­low.

A frustrated Trump has al­ready hinted he may ac­cept Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Crimea as he ac­cepted Is­rael’s an­nex­a­tion of Jerusalem.

And he ap­pears earnest about re­duc­ing our mas­sive trade deficits in goods that have been bleed­ing jobs, plants, equip­ment, cap­i­tal and tech­nol­ogy abroad.

The lat­est tar­iffs Trump has pro­posed, on $200 bil­lion worth of Chinese-made goods, would raise the price of 40 per­cent of China’s ex­ports to the U.S. and be­gin to shrink the $375 bil­lion trade sur­plus Bei­jing ran in 2017.

Trump said upon de­part­ing Brus­sels he had won new com­mit­ments to raise Euro­pean con­tri­bu­tions to NATO. But Em­manuel Macron of France seemed to con­tra­dict him. The com­mit­ments made be­fore the sum­mit, for all NATO na­tions to reach 2 per­cent of GDP for de­fense by 2024, said Macron, stand, and no new com­mit­ments were made.

As for Trump’s call for a 4 per­cent de­fense ef­fort by all, it was ig­nored. Hence the ques­tion: If Trump does not get his way and the al­lies hold to their pre­vi­ous sched­ule of de­fense com­mit­ments, what does he do?

One idea Trump floated last week was the threat of a draw­down of the 35,000 U.S. troops in Ger­many. But would this re­ally rat­tle the Ger­mans?

A new poll shows that a plu­ral­ity of Ger­mans fa­vor a draw­down of U.S. troops, and only 15 per­cent be­lieve that Ger­many should raise its de­fense spend­ing to 2 per­cent of GDP.

While Trump’s pres­sure on NATO to con­trib­ute more is pop­u­lar here, ap­par­ently Merkel’s re­sis­tance com­ports with Ger­man opin­ion.

Since ex­it­ing the Ira­nian nu­clear deal, Pres­i­dent Trump has de­manded that our Euro­pean al­lies join the U.S. in reim­pos­ing sanc­tions. Now he is de­mand­ing that the Euro­peans con­trib­ute more to de­fense.

What does he do if they defy us? More than likely, we will find out.


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