Consider this: you have a child who is cruel and a bully, the one who kicks sand in all the other children’s faces and shoves them off the swings. Now, he is invited to a birthday party … not because anybody wants him there, but because the parents of the ‘birthday boy’ felt it was the right thing to do. You understand all too well the dangers of your son attending the party, you realize he could spoil it not only for the ‘birthday boy’, but for every child in attendance. Do you allow your son to go to the party, or do you do the right thing and keep him home, perhaps spend some time explaining why he isn’t being allowed to go?
We the People unfortunately have just such a bully, and later this month he will be attending an event that he seems prepared to ruin: the annual NATO summit. Remember the last such event he attended, the G7 hosted by our close friend and ally, Justin Trudeau of Canada? Remember how he insulted every one of the other 6 leaders there and demanded that Putin/Russia be allowed back into the group? And remember how he insulted Trudeau after leaving the meeting, refusing to sign off on the joint communique? Remember the 2017 NATO summit where he refused to endorse the collective defense clause and then … then in order to be first in front for a group photo, he shoved Dusko Markovic, the Prime Minister of Montenegro?
There is every reason to believe that this year’s NATO summit will turn into an even bigger disaster, for he has already laid the groundwork. Last week Trump sent letters to eight of the 29 NATO members criticizing and threatening them for not yet having met the guidelines of defense spending. Donald Trump has either no concept or an erroneous concept of how the NATO collective defense program works, and he sees his own role as being considerably larger than it is.
NATO is based on the principle of collective defense: an attack against one or more members is considered an attack against all. So far that has only been invoked once — in response to the September 11 attacks on the U.S. To make the idea work, it is important for all members to make sure their armed forces are in good shape. So NATO sets an official target on how much they should spend. That currently stands at 2% of GDP. The 2% target is described as a “guideline.” There is no penalty for not meeting it. It is up to each country to decide how much to spend and how to use the money.
A few things are worth noting:
- Jens Stoltenberg is the Secretary General of NATO, not Donald Trump
- The 2% target is a ‘guideline’. Many countries are not in a financial position to be able to spend 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on military, and at least one nation, Germany, has other reasons for not being able to spend 2%
- The agreement was that member nations would work toward the goal of spending 2% of GDP on military/defense by 2024! This is only 2018
- European members of NATO are spending more on defense than in the recent past. Most have increased spending as a share of GDP since 2014, and in economically difficult times
- Nations do not pay this 2% to NATO and no nation owes any portion of it to the U.S.
- Thus far, the U.S. has been the only nation to receive the benefits of this program
Trump is a bully, and the letter he sent to several nations was a thinly veiled threat. Here is the letter he sent to Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada:
He was also particularly contentious toward Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, that letter said to contain the harshest language of the eight letters, though I am unable to find a copy of the letter to Merkel.
Chancellor Merkel backs plans for Germany’s defense budget to eventually reach 2 percent of GDP. However, her Christian Democrats’ junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats, are against massive defense spending increases and demand funds be used more efficiently. I would note here that the U.S. Congress should also be demanding that our own funds be spent more judiciously, for we have a ridiculously and unnecessarily burdensome military budget, while we are cutting safety net programs for the poor, ignoring infrastructure needs, and making health care unaffordable to all but the wealthy. Our own priorities are truly skewed, and Trump reminds me of a little boy playing with his army soldiers.Note that there are only five nations that are currently able to meet the 2% defense spending goal, yet Trump singled out our closest allies for his letter-writing campaign. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accords, pulled out of the Iran deal, criticized our allies at the G7 summit, and harshly imposed unwarranted tariffs on our European allies, and now he is bullying them ahead of the NATO summit. What could go wrong, eh?
“Why the president would find it necessary to send a letter like this in advance of the NATO summit is a mystery. It shows a lack of understanding … and sets the wrong tone in advance of an important summit in mid-July. This isn’t how you ‘prep’ for a NATO summit. Letters like this will only backfire.” — Julie Smith, a Europe expert with the Center for a New American Security.
International relations are difficult at best when the parties involved have a full understanding of the issues. Trump has no understanding and does not listen to those who do. He is a loose cannon and stands to do even further harm to our relations with our allies, making this nation far less safe than it has ever been perhaps since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. I do realize that nobody has the power to stop Trump from going to Brussels on July 11th, but I certainly wish there were a way to keep him home. I’m thinking duct taping him to the potty?