I’ve been wondering about the “Trump Effect” on the defence and fiscal priorities of America’s allies for several years now, ever since he was elected, and even before. I had hoped that the Trump Effect might spur some Western laggards, like Canada and Germany and many other allies, to pick up a greater share of the burden of containing or eliminating the everchanging (and growing) array of threats to the US-led West.
Instead, Murray Brewster says, in an article for CBC News, that “the U.S. president’s incessant hammering of alliance members to urge them to pay more for collective defence may be having a spillover effect, particularly among traditionally staunch western European allies … [at least] … That’s how some analysts are reading the results of the latest Pew Research Centre survey of the attitudes of individual countries toward the 70-year-old North Atlantic Alliance … [which suggests that] … While most member countries maintain a positive view of NATO, there has been a marked, steady erosion in support in France, Germany and Spain compared to previous surveys … [and] … It could very well reflect “the Trump Factor,” said Steve Saideman, director of the Canadian Defence and Security Network and a professor at Carleton University … [who adds that] … “I’m not that surprised to see public opinion dropping in Europe about NATO because it’s now about whether it’s given enough money to Donald Trump,” he said. “Trump is making it less popular in Europe.”“
Now, of course, I do not know what President trump’s intentions were or are; I suspect that he doesn’t either. My guess is that he operates on instinct and his instincts tell him that the whole world is “out to get” America: China wants to overwhelm it and its traditional allies just want to lay about, being fat and lazy, while America does all the hard work and bears all the burdens. I am pretty sure that many, many millions of Americans share his views. I say that because I saw an interesting post on social media a couple of days ago that showed a quite low level of support for America in the event of a conflict with China (the sources for the data were The Munich Security Conference and the European Council on Foreign Relations:
But my attention was also drawn to the comments which followed:
They are all, I am about 99% certain, from Americans and while there were a few responses supporting Europe, most were in that same vein, some a bit less polite.
I’m not overly surprised at either the European or American reactions. I spent a lot of time in Europe over the years, including some of it in NATO HQ, and I saw a great deal of ingrained anti-Americanism. While most Europeans, the ones I knew at least, were and still are grateful for what America had done, in war and peace, to liberate and rebuild Europe, there was always an undercurrent of distaste for American brashness, for America’s wealth and power, and for Americans being, as they so often are, “loud and proud.” It’s much the same in Canada, I think. The Americans are our good neighbours, the guarantors of our sovereignty and security and our best friends … but millions of Canadians wish they weren’t the latter, at least.
Murray Brewster says that “The results … [of the recent Pew Research Centre survey] … come at a time when Canadian support for the alliance remains steady (66 per cent) and the Liberal government sings the praises of multilateralism … [but] … We seem to be the outliers, however. Support in Britain, Poland and Lithuania and Greece increased slightly (although the Greeks only mustered a 37 per cent favourable view). Every other country, including the United States, saw a decline — in some cases a slight decline, in others a more pronounced one … [meanwhile] … Support in France registered at 49 per cent, down from 71 per cent two years ago. Germany saw a 16 per cent decline to 57 per cent support over the same timeframe … [perhaps because] … Both countries have been targets of Trump’s Twitter rants about defence spending — his demands that nations meet the NATO benchmark target of setting aside an amount equivalent to two per cent of their gross domestic product for military appropriations.“
French President Macron has bemoaned the state of the NATO alliance, describing it as “brain dead,” and I agree, albeit not for the same reasons. Both America and Europe are asking too much of NATO. It has a useful current role: to deter renewed Russian aggression on the periphery of Europe. All NATO members, including Canada, should be actively engaged in that task, at sea, on land and in the air. NATO is not there to solve Europe’s migrant crisis, nor is it a tool for American (or British, French or German) industrial development. The agreed (including by Canada) goal of consistently spending 2% of GDP on defence was based on some solid historical and economic evidence. President Trump shouldn’t have to keep belabouring the point because national governments, including Canada’s, that actually care about keeping the peace in their regions and around the world should want to get their budgets in order so that 2% of GDP for defence is the norm.
Sadly, President Trump seems to be providing irresponsible governments, like the Trudeau-Freeland regime, with an excuse to waste money on sideshows while the responsibility for securing peace and freedom sits on the back burner, nearly forgotten.