For comedy writing it’s hard to beat Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Hans Binnendijk’s advice to the European members of NATO at the RAND Blog:
Europe can deliver its portion of this bargain in three ways. First, it needs to demonstrate the value of its existing military contribution to the alliance. A Trump visit to the new British aircraft carrier, to be armed with American F-35s, would help to dramatize existing contributions.
Second, Europe needs a bold initiative on burden sharing. This is not an issue for Trump alone; a broad consensus exists among defense thinkers on both sides of the Atlantic that Europe has been a free rider for too long. Trump has just been bold enough to raise the stakes.
Europe should commit to reaching its agreed goal of spending 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense in five years rather than 10. That would give Trump some bragging rights during his term in office.
In addition, Europe might use this additional defense spending to make a few highly visible purchases of U.S. defense equipment. Germany might buy more cargo and reconnaissance aircraft. The Netherlands might buy more F-35s. Poland might invest more in U.S.-made air defense. NATO itself might lease U.S. forward-deployed defense equipment. And so on.
Remember the value that Trump placed on his successful effort to prevent Carrier from moving a small air-conditioning plant to Mexico? Symbolism will be important here.
And third, NATO as an institution could play a larger role in global operations against militants’ attacks. This initiative would address much of the reason Trump called the alliance “obsolete.”
Allow me to react to each of those numbered items in turn.
- Yes, emphasizing that the Anglosphere should go it alone is an excellent way to highlight the Continent’s intentions.
- Do they really believe that’s politically possible? European countries have pressures, too, and as I read the tea leaves building up their militaries won’t do anything about the pressures they’re under. Besides, we know with a confidence based on experience that any investment in equipment which France, Germany, or Italy, the major economies among our Continental NATO allies, will be willing to make will be backdoor subsidies to their own economies rather than to ours. Those economies aren’t doing too well right about now.
- With what? Having credible forces takes time and our European NATO allies have neglected theirs for a decade at least. There are only two European NATO members whose forces are at the highest level of readiness: the United Kingdom and France and they’re just about at the limits of their abilities already. Under the circumstances for NATO to “play a larger role in global operations” means greater American commitments rather than greater European commitments. How will that play in Peoria?