Angela Merkel tweeted several months ago that, “The United States can no longer be counted on to defend Europe.” Now let’s be clear, the Trans-Atlantic relationship has formed the underpinnings of peace since it was formalized after WWII. In fact, the period of peace between 1945 and today, is the longest period of peace in Europe in the past 2,000 years, despite that 1945 to 1991 period being one of the United States and the Soviet Union, armed with enough nuclear warheads to destroy the planet 11 times over. The comments by Angela Merkel, Macron and other European leaders demonstrate the frustration that Europeans are feeling with President Donald Trump. After listening to these comments, Trump told Europe to take a hike. He can be a divider but in many cases a unifier as he shakes up all systems and forces the group to have more meaningful discussions. To be precise and more detailed, President Trump will talk about Europe’s lack of commitment to NATO, making comments in the press that Europeans say – about each other – behind closed doors. The recent trip to Europe by President Trump resulted in promises of an additional $38 billion for military spending by NATO member states. Every player seems to be spending slightly more in 2018, and this is thanks for the sometimes nutty antics of the Uber-tweeter Trump.
Here are, according to recent public information, spending as a percentage of its GDP. The US is still ahead of other allies` spending, with defense expenditure accounting for 3.57 precent of its GDP in 2017. Greece comes in second with 2.36 percent, then the UK with 2.12 percent, and Estonia with 2.08 precent. When it comes to the proportion spent on defense as a share of GDP, Europe has fallen from 3 percent in 1989 to 1.95 percent in 2017. The US is down from approximately 6 percent to 3.57 percent over this same 1989 to 2017 period. A report launched by NATO suggests that only three countries met the 2.0 percent guideline. The recent visits by President Trump was to get member states to stand by their word and pay their fare share. After a lengthy down trend in spending, the trajectory seems to be higher and this was confirmed by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg when he addressed the alliance at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Let’s be clear, the spending was starting to increase even before President Trump visited, but his words and actions increased the total number of funds promised and collected. I would think that with President Trump pressuring NATO partners, many others will start spending enough to contribute their share to hit that 2.0 percent of GDP target.
In the end, the US needs its allies. It is clear that global stability and the peace since WWII has been resting on a foundation called the Trans-Atlantic Alliance. This alliance has been weakened recently, and it surely at its lowest level (in terms of unity) since 1945 but there will be improvements. President Trump has made it clear that he is not willing to work with Angela Merkel, as he feels that Germany has unfair trade and commitment practices. There are 85 US “defensive” military installations in Germany, built to defend Germany – all Cold War and very obsolete logic. Trump will reduce that number bases under a new German leader, not Merkel.
President Trump will be focused on China, North Korea, German, Iran and global trade. Angela Merkel is not one to be involved with wild political rhetoric so her statements have meaning. The next challenges will be with Iran. Look for President Trump to work with the Saudis and other Sunni countries to contain Tehran.
More to come later this week