With the Republican convention in the rear view window, Republicans have now devoted their energy to elect Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. The Republican National Convention in Cleveland focused, in part, on the foreign policy resume of Hillary Clinton and the legacy Barack Obama will leave behind on the world stage.
For years we have relentlessly criticized what has been come to be known as the Obama/Clinton foreign policy. The withdrawal from Iraq, the war in Libya, Benghazi, the Russian reset, and other foreign policy misadventures have come to define Obama and Clinton’s foreign policy failures. Perhaps the most common criticism of Obama and his administration from conservatives and Republicans has been that he has strengthened and tried to befriend our enemies while weakening and disrespecting our allies. Whether it was the optics of returning the Winston Churchill bust to Britain or badmouthing Benjamin Netanyahu or insisting the enemy regime in Tehran can be a “Very successful regional power”, the general feelings among conservatives is that Obama is a dangerous mixture of incompetency and left-wing ideology.
Enter Donald Trump. The man who will “Make America Great Again.” In a move that had to have the Kremlin up all night celebrating, the Republican nominee for President said that it if an American ally was to be attacked that the United States would only help if “they fulfill their obligations to us…” He also said that “[w]e are going to take care of this country first, before we worry about everyone else in the world.”
Of the 28 NATO countries, only 5, Estonia, Greece, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, meet defense spending requirement of 2% of GDP. Five countries, Belgium, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Spain, and Canada, fail to meet even 1%.
Despite these anemic numbers, a lot of people, not just Trump and the people who agree with him, seem to forget that while NATO exists to protect Eastern Europe, it also protects us. People assume that NATO exists to protect Europe and Europe only. After all, the Russians or Chinese are not launching an amphibious invasion of the United States any time soon.
However, what people forget is that from an American perspective NATO also exists to ensure that we do not have to fight a war in Europe for the third time in 100 years and to come to our aid like in Afghanistan after September 11. While it may be true that “Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus” and that European’s militaries are vastly underfunded, it is also true that many allied nations suffered their first combat losses since World War II in Afghanistan and to abandon them would be both bad policy and immoral.
No sane person can deny that the Europeans do not pay enough in defense, but anybody who thinks that if the rest of NATO were to spend more on defense that Vladimir Putin will back off in his expansionist policies is lying to themselves.
Trump’s NATO comments were dangerous and would open the door for all sorts of problems. The Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians and any other adversarial or hostile regime now knows that the United States’ word to defend its allies is conditional.