Riddle me this. How does this reality of European defense spending:
At 1.9%, France last year fell short of the 2% that is supposed to be the technical requirement for membership. Mr. Rasmussen’s Denmark spent 1.4% of its GDP on defense, Angela Merkel’s Germany 1.3%, Italy 1.2%, and Spain 0.9%. This is what a country spends if it thinks its main security threat is Belgium.
constitute an argument for greater U. S. commitment to Europe? When you consider all of the NATO countries only four—Estonia, Greece, the United Kingdom, and the United States—spend more than the 2% of GDP guideline for membership in the alliance. Most, like Germany (1.3%), spend less. Some, like Luxembourg (.4%), Spain (.9%), and Canada (1%), spend much less. Some of the free riders, e.g. Luxembourg and Canada, cannot plead poverty. Luxembourg has the highest median household income in the world. The free riders mostly just have other priorities.
In aggregate the countries of Europe have a higher GDP than the United States but their aggregate defense spending is a fraction of ours. I attribute a good deal of the discrepancy to bad signalling on the part of the United States. Take the war in the Balkans as an example.
We had very few interests in the Balkans. Germany, on the other hand, had substantial financial interests, particularly in Croatia. The Germans had been courting the Croats for years prior to Croatia’s declaration of independence. Italy had substantial interests as well, particularly as the refugees of the conflict began streaming across their border. The carnage in Yugoslavia was a mostly European problem that should have been soluble by the Europeans.
When we joined the intervention in the Balkans it signalled to the Europeans that we would provide the military muscle to handle even purely European crises. We have repeated that signal again and again since then. Is it any wonder that our European allies have interpreted our actions as absolving them from any need for paying for their own defense let alone paying for more general European security. They preferred to spend the money on social welfare as who wouldn’t under the circumstances?
We’re in the position of the man who has an enormous pain in his head because he’s pounding his head into a brick wall. The first thing to do is stop.