Home/Daniel Larison/Trump’s Misunderstanding of NATO and Our ‘Cheap-Riding’ Allies

Trump’s Misunderstanding of NATO and Our ‘Cheap-Riding’ Allies

Trump reportedly tried to bill Germany for what it supposedly “owes” NATO during his meeting with Chancellor Merkel:

Donald Trump handed the German chancellor Angela Merkel a bill — thought to be for more than £300bn — for money her country “owed” Nato for defending it when they met last weekend, German government sources have revealed.

We already knew that Trump didn’t understand how the alliance works when he said that Germany “owed” NATO money, but if the report is true it also shows how thoroughly inept Trump is in his dealings with allied leaders. Most NATO members don’t meet the defense spending target, but they won’t be goaded into doing so by being told that they owe some huge amount that the administration pulls out of the air. When they are presented with a bill like this, allies will view it as an insult and will probably be less willing to cooperate than they were before.

U.S. allies don’t spend more on their own defense because they don’t think they have to, and as long as the U.S. keeps its military spending at such high levels they will have no incentive to increase theirs. If Trump wants European allies to provide for more of their own defense, he needs to make significant reductions to our military budget. Of course, he is proposing to do just the opposite, so he can count on our allies to continue their “cheap-riding” ways.

Update: The German government denies the story about being given a bill.

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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