Home/Daniel Larison/The Brussels Summit and NATO Expansion

The Brussels Summit and NATO Expansion

Trump spent the last two days berating NATO allies to increase military spending, and it yielded nothing:

French President Emmanuel Macron has denied President Donald Trump’s claim that NATO allies have agreed to boost defense spending beyond 2 percent of gross domestic product.

It is not surprising that gratuitously haranguing other governments in public doesn’t make them more cooperative. The president managed to alarm allied leaders with his antics, but he doesn’t seem to have persuaded them to do anything more than they were already doing. As he did at some other recent summits, Trump put on a show that achieved nothing except to damage relations with allies. When he claims that he scored a great triumph, it is important to remember that he’s lying to the public as he so often does.

Meanwhile, NATO expansion continues to shuffle forward like the zombie policy that it is:

NATO on Wednesday invited Macedonia to start talks to join the alliance after Skopje reached a deal with Greece in a long-running row over the country’s name.

Alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said Macedonia would be able to become NATO’s newest member, provided the new name was approved in a referendum later this year.

Macedonia’s membership in NATO had been blocked by Greece because of the dispute over the country’s name, and it is likely that the recent agreement to settle that dispute will resolve the matter in the near future. While the possible resolution of the disagreement between the two neighbors is welcome news, it makes no sense to bring yet another country into the alliance. The alliance also continues to string along Georgia with the promise of future membership, and Trump said that Georgia would have a chance to join in the future. The U.S. doesn’t need any new security dependents, and it certainly shouldn’t support Georgian membership in the alliance, but the alliance keeps adding new members and keeps giving aspiring members encouragement that they will be let in at some point.

It is strange that ongoing NATO expansion never seems to provoke Trump’s ire. If Trump’s objections to European levels of military spending were rooted in a concern about free-riding allies, he ought to be opposed to adding new members that are guaranteed to be free-riding dependents. Curiously, he raised no objections to Montenegro’s accession last year and he evidently doesn’t oppose bringing in Macedonia. He isn’t even clearly opposed to bringing in Georgia. No matter what one thinks about the alliance, halting its continued, mindless expansion should be the priority for the U.S.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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