Things have come to a pretty pass
Our romance is growing flat,
For you like this and the other
While I go for this and that,
Goodness knows what the end will be
Oh I don’t know where I’m at
It looks as if we two will never be one
Something must be done:
You say either and I say either,
You say neither and I say neither
Either, either Neither, neither
Let’s call the whole thing off.
You like potato and I like potahto
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto.
Let’s call the whole thing off
The editors of The Economist think some adjustments need to be made to maintain the health of NATO:
NATO’s success holds lessons for the transatlantic relationship as a whole. To flourish in the future, it must not just survive Mr Trump, but change every bit as boldly as it has in the past.
First, this means building on its strengths, not undermining them: removing trade barriers rather than lapsing into tariff wars, for example. Mr Trump is right to badger his allies to live up to their defence-spending promises. But he is quite wrong to think of charging them cost-plus-50% for hosting American bases, as he is said to be contemplating. Such matters should not be treated like a “New York real-estate deal”, a former vice-president, Dick Cheney, told the current one, Mike Pence, last week. Those European bases help America project power across the world (see article).
Second, realism should replace nostalgia. Europeans should not fool themselves that America’s next president will simply turn the clock back. Instead, to make themselves useful to America, Europeans need to become less dependent on it. For instance, in defence, they have taken only baby steps towards plugging big gaps in their capabilities and avoiding wasteful duplication. Their efforts should extend beyond the eu, whose members after Brexit will account for only 20% of NATO countries’ defence spending.
A more capable Europe would help with the third and biggest change: adjusting to China’s rise. America’s focus will increasingly be on the rival superpower. Already China’s influence is making itself felt on the alliance, from the nuclear balance to the security implications of, say, Germany buying 5g kit from Huawei or Italy getting involved in the infrastructure projects of the Belt and Road Initiative. Yet the allies have barely begun to think seriously about all this. A new paper from the European Commission that sees China as a “systemic rival” is at least a start.
That is fanciful to the point of being delusional. Some changes need to be made but most of them will need to be made by the countries of Europe.
First, NATO is a military alliance—a mutual defense pact. At present the defense of the “new” NATO countries—those that have become members since the original 12 members—is completely dependent on U. S. deterrence. That must end. That means that the European countries need to be able to defend Estonia, Latvia, and so on, soon to include Macedonia, from a land attack until the United States could arrive in force. We’re not going to maintain a million more soldiers in Europe. I would assume that would require the European countries to hold out for at least a week and probably more like a month. I feel confident in saying that would require them to spend more than 1.3% of GDP on defense. How much would it take? It might require them to spend a lot more than 2% until their militaries are up to the level that decades of inattention have produced.
Second, U. S. needs are different from European needs. As just two examples we’re not an ethnic country and we have a 1,500 mile land border with a country a quarter of ours. Our population is extremely diverse. Not only do we have more people of European descent than most European countries, we have more people of sub-Saharan African descent than most African countries do, and more people of Hispanic descent than most Latin American countries do. Neither we nor they should assess our performance by European standards.
Third, the biggest threat to NATO continued existence isn’t the U. S. It isn’t even Russia or China. It’s Germany. Example: the U. S. didn’t cause a flood of migrants from Turkey into Europe. Germany did.