, 07.10.2018 07:50 AM

Is Trump right on NATO?

Donald Trump has said – and this week, in Brussels he will say yet again – that Canada and other nations don’t pay our way in NATO.  He will say we need to pay more.

There are 28 members of NATO. Its budget is is hundreds of billions, annually. The United States of America contributes most of that. The United Kingdom, France and Germany are also big contributors. Canada?

Canada is in the bottom third of NATO members, alongside Slovenia and Luxembourg, and others with bankrupt and/or struggling economies. By agreement reached in 2014, NATO members are supposed to be devoting two per cent of their nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) to defence. Canada doesn’t, and consistently hasn’t.

During the Republican primaries and during the U.S. presidential race, Donald Trump would be asked often about defence by journalists looking for some crazy new Trump statement to report. Trump wouldn’t disappoint.

So: “We are getting ripped off by every country in NATO, where they pay virtually nothing, most of them. And we’re paying the majority of the costs.”

And: “We’re spending a tremendous — billions and billions of dollars on NATO. We’re paying too much! You have countries in NATO, I think it’s 28 countries – you have countries in NATO that are getting a free ride and it’s unfair, it’s very unfair.”

And, this gem, which gave plenty of Western leaders heartburn, and which transformed Donald Trump’s presidency from something that was mildly amusing to something that was deeply terrifying: NATO was “obsolete,” he said.

And: “The U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves.

That statement about NATO’s obsolesence, uttered during an interview with a German newspaper, was a shock. “[NATO is] obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago,” Trump said. Secondly, he said, it’s obsolete because “countries aren’t paying what they should.”

His first point, like so much that Trump says, was certifiably insane. With Trump’s boss Vladimir Putin massing troops and guns on the border of assorted Baltic states, NATO is needed more now than perhaps ever before. But on his second assertion, that NATO is compromised because many countries aren’t paying what they should?

On that, Donald Trump is not entirely wrong.

This week, Justin Trudeau has attempted to curry favour with Trump – by deploying more Canadian Forces troops in Latvia, and by keeping them for another four years.  It is unlikely to sway Trump, however.  There are two reasons for that.

One, Trump – as noted – is arguably right that Canada needs to devote more of its GDP to NATO.  Not two per cent, necessarily, but more.

Two, Trump isn’t going to Brussels to praise NATO – he is going there to bury it.  That’s what his benefactor Vladimir Putin wants; Trump will comply.  And complaining about the funding of NATO is a clever ruse – it undermines the military alliance indirectly.

And, you know? It just might work.

 

28 Comments

  1. Dave says:

    Calling Putin “Trumps Boss”, says all one needs to know about any objectivity in the article. It’s rather sad that it took somone like Trump to show us that almost every thing we now read truly is fake news. I had hoped to learn something from this article, shame on me

  2. Warren,

    The United States should unilaterally drop its contribution from 70 to 50%. Telegraph a deadline and then let the other members work it out among themselves.

    It’s long overdue. Prime Minister Trudeau says our contribution should be measured by looking at other things we do for NATO. Sounds nice, but doesn’t really cut the mustard.

    • crabby says:

      I agree that the US should pare back its contribution and play much less of a role in NATO. The NATO members should likewise stop playing America’s dutiful Foreign Legion across South Asia and the Middle East in its endless PermaWars. For almost two decades the Americans have demonstrated to friend and foe alike that All the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men can persistently fail to deliver any real military or political result even when they’re up against a gaggle of illiterate Afghan farmboys wielding Korean War vintage assault rifles and RPGs.

      Res ipsa loquitor, Ron.

      • crabby,

        How true. How many trillions did the U.S. funnel into Iraq and Afghanistan…and now the big boy is making nasty eyes at Iran and Venezuela.

        Are they actually that stupid to do it again? Afraid, to ask, is to answer it.

  3. crabby says:

    Trump suffers from a simple mind, incapable of grasping complex issues, compounded by the attention span of a fruit fly.

    Trump needs to be reminded of the beating heart of the NATO charter, Article 5, the “mutual defence” provision. That’s the provision Trump has already said he wasn’t sure America would honour if it came to, say Slovenia, versus Russia.

    He needs to be reminding that Article 5 has been invoked exactly once. Only once. And that was by the United States after the 9/11 attacks. And pre-expansion NATO rallied to America’s call for help and wound up serving as America’s Foreign Legion some in Afghanistan, some in Iraq, some in Syria in what America allowed to degrade into PermaWar, war without end, war without victory. A lot of those faithful countries fought America’s war for ten years, fifteen years, some are still engaged in this futility only to be met with derision by the Mango Mussolini.

    Trump is the only NATO leader who has hinted he might not answer the Article 5 call. He should be cordially invited to sit down and shut the hell up.

  4. Lou says:

    All canadians know that our armed forces have been neglected for years simply because we had the protection of the US. I’ve said years ago if you really wanted to see europe panic, US should pull out all of it personnel and missiles from Europe. Military service used to be seen a noble endeavor. It is now looked at by many as a bunch of trigger happy yahoos. Thats not right. We do not pull our weight and Trump is right to call it out. Killing it is wrong, but cutting the funding to NATO and the UN would force American “Allies” to take a serious look at themselves and finally buck up.

    • Fred from BC says:

      That’s it, in a nutshell. Don’t worry, Trump has no intention of pulling out of NATO…he’s just negotiating from a position of strength to force others to finally pay their fair share.

      (you know, like any “simple minded” billionaire who takes his orders from Vladimir Putin would do…)

  5. Sean says:

    Of course Trump is right about NATO. The thing is, no one cares about what he thinks anymore, except his base.

  6. doconnor says:

    So, increased defacit, increased taxes or spending cuts in other parts of the government?

  7. Samantha Banks-Quills says:

    Seriously, Trump is way more powerful than Putin. Bosses usually are more powerful even if an underlying helped with the promotion. Let’s see if Putin invades another former USSR countries to protect Russian-speakers. Hard to predict this talking pumpkin because unpredictability is power manifest.

    Trump was talking about paying too much in support of international organizations in the early 1990s. It’s a negotiation anchor, folks. Not about facts, it’s about persuasion. And it’s working because no politicians has done that before, doesn’t mean it is right or appropriate.

  8. Angel Martin says:

    NATO’s problem isn’t Trump.

    NATO’s problem is the attitude of populations like Germany, and “leaders” like Merkel. They are opposed to additional NATO forces in the Baltics to counter a potential Russian invasion.

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-nato-east-idUSKBN0F00S120140625

    https://www.dw.com/en/no-permanent-nato-troop-presence-in-eastern-europe-merkel-says/a-17897288

    These people will not take effective action in the face of obvious threats.

    NATO is a dead letter.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Angel,

      Even though I opined strategically above, Putin is no fool. He is not about to take on Baltic states that are full-fledged NATO members.

      His bluster and brute force is reserved for Ukraine and Georgia, neither of which have been fast-tracked into NATO. That’s called being asleep at the switch. All of NATO should be blamed for that.

      • Angel Martin says:

        “Putin is no fool. He is not about to take on Baltic states that are full-fledged NATO members.”

        I hope you are right, because there is nothing stopping him right now. A Russian invasion of the Baltics would be a three day campaign.

        https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1253.html

        RAND advocates a much larger force be moved into the Baltics to slow things down and raise the invasion cost to Russia.

        The problem. Even if the USA made forces available, Germany and the other European “allies” WILL NOT AGREE.

        They are like Holland and Belgium in the run-up to WW2.

        Even after the Mechelen Incident when they had the German invasion plans, Holland and Belgium would not abandon neutrality and co-operate with the allies because they didn’t want to “provoke” Hitler, and give him an excuse.

        NATO is dead, and the actions of “leaders” like Merkel and Trudeau are what killed it.

  9. Ray says:

    The last government anted up with five C-17 heavy-lift aircraft, fifteen CH-147F heavy-lift helicopters, seventeen C-130J Hercules aircraft, eleven CH-148 Cyclone SAR helicopters, over one-hundred Leopard 2 main battle tanks, and thirty-seven 155mm M777 howitzers. Not a huge purchase if scaled against the USA, but significant for this country – especially since much of it was acquired during an overseas war and in the middle of an economic Waterloo.
    This Trudeau II government should at least begin firming up a purchase of fighter aircraft to replace the CF-18’s ordered by Trudeau I’s government in the late 1970’s.
    Yeah – that long ago.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Ray,

      It’s my understanding that Ottawa is waiting for bids to purchase 88 new fighter aircraft. We’ll see if Boeing bids. The Trudeau government will allow them to do so, should they wish to.

  10. Mike Milner says:

    While the concept of NATO is still admirable, and even perhaps of some value, President Trump is right to call out Canada and other European countries with respect to their military. Independent nations need to be able to protect themselves. Alliances are important, but you also need to have (and need to be seen to have) some skin in the game. Canada could, and should, do better. Our troops have been righfully well regarded by our allies, and they deserve as much support as possible from their government. A reasonable increase in spending on our Armed Forces should be a priority. With respect to our current deployment of personnel in Latvia, I think we should be realistic about the situation there. I am dubious about the wisdom of allowing former Soviet satellites into NATO. I am not sure what strategic interest Canada has on that part of the world. It was very provocative of the Americans to become involved in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of communism. If my memory serves me correctly, the Americans became quite incensed when the Soviet Union became involved in countries that were close to America (like Cuba and Nicaragua), and there was much unpleasantness as a result. Let’s be careful before we all become models of rectitude on this matter. I think the current European powers are quite capable of dealing with Russia, and are historically better prepared than we are. Besides, if the Russians were serious about invading and occupying the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, realistically, there is not much Canadian troops could do. I’m sure they would fight and acquit themselves quite well, but they would be in much the same position that the Canadian troops in Hong Kong were in 1941 when Japan attacked. Once the attack started, there was no way to evacuate the troops, or to provide reinforcements. They were put there as a deterrent (as our troops are now in Latvia) which unfortunately didn’t work. While the Russians are certainly capable of much mischief-making, they are not the military power the Soviet Union was, and could probably not win a conventional war with the European powers. I’m not convinced having our troops in Latvia is wise.

  11. Kev says:

    “This week, Justin Trudeau has attempted to curry favour with Trump – by deploying more Canadian Forces troops in Latvia”

    Canadian Forces to Latvia displeases Putin greatly.

    You think it pleases Trump?

  12. Liam Young says:

    Here’s a thought: isn’t it time we stopped creating fake wars and scaled back on intensely wasteful defense and security budgets?

    Seriously, Canada is on the right side of this and should trumpet a ‘reduction diet’ for global armaments spending.

    All it does it steal from taxpayers and enrich a handful of makers.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Liam,

      Frankly, I prefer your option with plenty of cash going for the homeless and social justice.

      But we can’t change our adversaries – – most of whom’s word means absolutely nothing in a confidence-building measures sense. That’s the stark strategic reality.

  13. Ron Benn says:

    Canada has long been long on rhetoric but short on action. Kyoto, Paris, NATO … the list of treaties that Canada signs but fails to take meaningful steps towards meeting its obligations on is far too long, and growing not shrinking.

  14. Robert White says:

    NATO is an anachronism that has long ago reached it’s past due date on shelf life. NATO is subservient to USA oligopolists and USA corporate sector Military Industrial Complex. NATO is also subservient to the NSA & CIA which makes anyone contributing to NATO upkeep just another useful idiot for the mindless dolts of the Central Intelligence Agency.

    Screw the CIA & NATO.

    Where is the anti-war sentiment in a post WW2 world?

    NATO is a very bad business model to support with a future of diminishing returns on investment. I, for one, don’t want to give NATO another thin dime. Bring our troops home and give Orange Jesus the middle finger.

    RW

  15. Pete says:

    I read this article and let me say that, first of all I´m EU citizen and second this article clearly shows another biased opinion against trump administration. I can agree that donald trump not always (or pherhaps always is ¨rude¨) express himself in a good manner, however to say that he is not right in the two points pointed in this article is absurd.
    First point – Nato is obsolete. I´ll not say that is obsolete, but needs a clear and efficient update. The biggest mission of Nato was to put ¨¨us in, urss out and germany down¨. Nowadays urss is not the biggest threat to europe- terrorism and the increasingly grown chinese empire are. we need to control the chinese clear expantion (mainly the asian- pacific territory) but also to sustain the terrorism.
    Second point – gdp contribution of the allies. Clearly there are countries in nato that are not contributing to whatever they should contribute (trump referred the gdp monetary amount but i would also say the lack of military presence in some territories). canada is an example of that. how it is possible russia, with an economy that is struggling despite the fact that it likes to expose it military capacity could enter in crimea like it did? where is the influence of germany? the french proud? where is the strength of the European continent? it was necessary a secretary from us ( John Kerry in that time) to travel all atlantic ocean to put some organization in that area. europe needs to strengh and to increase the spending in the military of their gdp countries.

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