Friday, 6 July 2018

The Shame Of It All

Free Loading Off the United States

There are few things more likely to provoke incandescent rage in the "heartland" of the United States than nations "free loading" on the United States, while criticizing the US left, right, and centre.  

One such provocation is defence.  Since the formation of NATO, the United States has effectively bankrolled the whole box and dice.  There were historical reasons for this--such as the desperate need of European nations to rebuild their infrastructure and economies shattered by World War II.  They simply did not have sufficient funds to bank roll an effective defence capability.  The emergence of the Cold War required that the Soviet Union be contained;  Europe simply could not do it, without the financial support of the United States. 

Those days, however, are long since gone.  It is way beyond reasonable expectation for Europe to continue to expect, let alone demand, that the US continue to bank roll NATO.
  President Trump is (rightly) putting pressure on the European States to front up with the cash to which they have previously agreed.  The fact that this is causing ructions in European nations bespeaks the moral bankruptcy of those nations. 
Although U.S. President Donald J. Trump has repeatedly made clear that he is committed to NATO and expects members to pull their own weight within the alliance, European Union leaders have sounded the alarm, blaming the President for endangering the military treaty.

In apparently unironic comments on behalf of nations that have persistently failed to support the NATO alliance and meet their treaty obligations while the United States picked up the tab, European Council President Donald Tusk told European leaders Thursday night: “Despite our tireless efforts to keep the unity of the west, transatlantic relations are under immense pressure due to the policies of President Trump.” [Oliver J J Lane, Breitbart London]
What is the problem?
Many European leaders are exhibiting signs of panic over the forthcoming NATO summit in Belgium in July, as Trump is expected to make clear his disappointment that despite all NATO members having reaffirmed their commitment to spending two percent of their national GDP on defence at the 2014 NATO summit, almost none do. 
For years the United States has picked up the tab for nations like the UK, Germany, and France, let alone the smaller nations.  In Trump's black and white mental frame this is a bad deal. 
The pessimistic attitude from European leaders comes shortly after Trump’s private comments on NATO at the G7 meeting in early June, where he again brought up the overwhelming cost of the alliance that the United States bears. He is reported to have said: “It will be an interesting summit. Nato is as bad as Nafta. It’s much too costly for the US.”

Doubling down on the President’s comments, a spokesman for the National Security Council said it was time for NATO allies to pay their fair share. The Guardian reports the spokesman as saying: “The president is committed to the alliance, as he has stated repeatedly. The president has also been clear we expect our allies to shoulder their fair share of our common defence burden and to do more in areas that most affect them.  “There is no better way to signal Nato’s resolve than for each and every ally to allocate the resources necessary to share their burden of our collective defence.”
 It should have happened years ago.  By the seventies, the European States should have been required to meet their obligations--effectively, to pay for their own defence. 

It is something the New Zealand government--an expert in freeloading off other nations for the cost of its defence--should take note.  Sooner or later the US is going to make the same argument to New Zealand, which has long snuggled up under the US umbrella.  Without doubt, the NZ position and practice is disgraceful. 

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