Henry Kissinger once remarked, sometime after 9/11, that a U.S. President could still call upon Americans to sacrifice in the national interest while Europe’s leaders could not. The current U.S. presidential campaign shows that this U.S.-Europe difference may be fading, which should be a wake-up call to Europeans who have neglected their own defenses and find themselves exposed to threats from Moscow to Mosul.
“I have two problems with NATO,” Donald Trump told the New York Times last week. “No. 1, it’s obsolete. When NATO was formed many decades ago we were a different country. There was a different threat.” The Republican front-runner thinks NATO is ill-suited for dealing with terrorism, “because right now we don’t have somebody looking at terror, and we should be looking at terror.”
His second problem is that “we pay far too much.” The Atlantic Alliance, he says, is “unfair, economically, to us, to the United States. Because it really helps them more than the United States, and we pay a disproportionate share.”
Mr. Trump has a stream-of-unconsciousness way of speaking, so it isn’t clear whether he knows that NATO spent a decade fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, before President Obama pulled up stakes on the mission. Great Britain lost 455 troops fighting the Taliban and other terrorists in the country, Canada lost 158, and other NATO members lost nearly 400. That doesn’t match the U.S. commitment, but Europe’s NATO members sacrificed in Afghanistan in response to terrorist attacks in the U.S.
The New York real-estate developer also doesn’t seem to realize that the threat NATO currently faces from the Kremlin is increasing and worse than at any time since the Cold War ended. Russian jets persistently threaten and violate NATO airspace, Russian operatives have staged assassinations and kidnappings in NATO countries, and Russian diplomats have even threatened nuclear attacks on NATO states.
Mr. Trump has famously said he is his own foreign-policy strategist, so perhaps he should consider that NATO’s current role is to prevent the emergence of a regional Russian hegemon. Such a Russia could dominate Eastern Europe and exercise authoritarian leverage over the rest. Investing in the alliance now is a way to deter war so we don’t have to spend more to fight one later.Read the rest of this WSJ op-ed HERE and view a related video below:
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