There is a very useful article in The Guardian in which NATO’s Secretary-General (its allied civilian leader) Jens Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, pointedly reminds President-elect Donald Trump that NATO allies rushed to the aid of the USA when it was attacked on 9/11 “and warns that, rather than “deepening differences” between the 28 members, now is the time to “nurture what unites” under “strong American leadership”.” It’s a timely reminder one hopes President Trump will remember, but it is unlikely to change the balance which, the article reminds us, has the US still making 70% of all NATO defence expenditures.
I really do not see the burden-sharing issue fading away … not for NATO and not for Canada.
The article says that “Stoltenberg’s passionate intervention, just days after Trump’s shock election to the White House, highlights the deep concerns within European military circles about the new American president … [because] … In July Trump had said that Nato was incapable of dealing with terrorism and that he would be willing to tell allies who did not “reimburse” America for its military protection: “Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.” … Stoltenberg, however, hits back, claiming that Nato is playing a “crucial role” in the fight against Islamic State, and in strengthening the capacity of partners in North Africa and the Middle East to combat terrorists … [and] … He also writes that it is Vladimir Putin’s Russia which has become more “assertive” in recent years, and that the tens of thousands of troops the country is amassing across its western border should be treated as a genuine threat to which the west must respond. Trump has claimed that he will be able to build a strong relationship with Putin, and has attacked those who have encouraged a deterioration in relations with the Kremlin … [further] … Stoltenberg writes: “We have implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the cold war. And the United States has significantly strengthened its commitment to European security, deploying a new armoured brigade to eastern Europe and delivering equipment and supplies to support future reinforcements if needed. This is deterrence, not aggression. We do not seek to provoke a conflict, but to prevent a conflict.” … [and] … “Nato battalions numbering thousands of troops cannot be compared with Russian divisions numbering tens of thousands just across the border. Our response is defensive and proportionate. But it sends a clear and unmistakable message: an attack against one will be met by a response from all.”“
If that had been all that collective Europe had to say I would not have noticed, but of course, European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker couldn’t resist having a say. the article goes on to say that “Last week Juncker claimed the Americans “will not ensure the security of the Europeans in the long term. We have to do this ourselves.” He added: “That is why we need a new start in the field of European defence, up to the goal of setting up a European army.” … Former [British] foreign secretary Jack Straw said Juncker was guilty of “narcissism”, and that such proposals would only push Trump away from Nato. “I think this is another example of serious error by Juncker,” he said. “Every time Juncker spoke during the referendum, he helped the Leave campaign. The EU wants to make a choice about whether it wants Nato to continue. What would be the purpose of a European defence force? It is a folie de grandeur, like other things the EU has done which has caused it to face its current existential crisis. It is frankly crackers. But it is illustrative of the weird and narcissistic world in which he operates.””
Europe, like Canada, wants to have its cake and eat it, too.
NATO’s own data shows that only a handful of countries are “pulling their weight:”
Most NATO members, like Canada, are content to ride along on America’s coattails while money is spent ~ wasted, actually ~ on “nice to have” social programmes that, generally, benefit only a few, usually unproductive, segments of society.
It’s hard to blame governments. In Canada, at least, it has been more than sixty years, since 1953, since a governing party campaigned on increasing defence spending. The voters have, traditionally, wanted butter, not guns. There’s nothing new in this and it should not surprise us, but the difference between real leadership and the sort of thing on offer from too many progressive governments is in recognizing that what people want and what they need are often different and in telling them so …
The Europeans, by and large, and most Canadians, too, want to have all the butter while they hope that the Americans will continue to supply enough guns.
Why should the Americans do that?
Is Canada poor? Is Europe poor?
According to some analysts (and I admit I chose data from a conservative source) while Europe continues to lag the USA in “real” GDP, and Canada certainly does, GDP per capita is higher in Europe (but not in Canada) than in the USA. But, even as the USA faces a debt crisis. many, I daresay most Europeans still expect the USA to pay for Europe’s defence against Russia. Believe what you like about US President-elect Donald Trump, he is correct to say that America simply cannot go on and on and on borrowing from Asia to pay for the defence of the rich Canadians and Europeans … the American voters heard his complaint about “freeloading” allies and they gave him a mandate to change the relationship.
Prime Minister Trudeau and most European presidents and prime ministers will have to face a newly elected US president who wants them to pay for a bigger and bigger slice of their own defence. Real leaders would do well to recognize that the Americans have a valid point … some, probably many of them, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, may try to pretend that it doesn’t matter; they will be wrong.