Trump takes our allies to task

Media coverage of the attempt of the Democrats (and the media) to impeach the president has drowned out other news. That's a pity because what generally has not been reported is President Trump attempt to readjust the structure of our military alliances. Specifically,

He [President Trump] has now launched a new phase in his effort to secure greater financial burden-sharing. The first salvo was his demand that Seoul agree to a five-fold increase in its annual payment to offset some of the cost of U.S. troops stationed in that country -- a boost that would bring the total to $4.7 billion. Just days later, he called on Tokyo to quadruple its payment for U.S. forces deployed in Japan from $2 billion to $8 billion. There is now rampant speculation that he will adopt a similar stance towards the European allies, especially Germany leading up to the NATO summit in early December.

In addition to the absurdity of the U.S. carrying an inordinate share of the financial burden of defending wealthy foreign countries, there is another fundamental point. Namely, do these alliances and military commitments actually serve American national interests? Take South Korea as an example. It has twice the population of North Korea and an economy about 50 times greater. Given that, why can't South Korea defend itself with, say, minimal help from the U.S.? The answer is that it can but would rather to continue to freeload on America's back.

As to Europe, the same story holds true. Germany, the economic powerhouse of the European Union, contributes a miserable 1.2 percent towards its defense relying on America to take care of the bulk of it.  And the Germans take umbrage when the U.S. dares to complain about this imbalance. As for military commitments, the U.S. technically bound to defend countries such as Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, and Montenegro. How in heaven's name do any of them contribute to American security? Answer is they don't. On the contrary, those military promises in Europe, like the one to South Korea, put the U.S. at risk.

NATO will hold a Summit of Allied leaders from December 3-4 in London which will mark the 70th anniversary of its founding. This meeting should be interesting to say the least. French President Emmanuel Marcon has already staked out his agenda. He revealed it when he took a swipe at NATO by calling it 'brain dead' in an interview with The Economist Marcon coupled this with a renewed his call for a European army outside of NATO. This has set the smaller European countries in a near panic. They view Marcon's vision of a united European military force as a pipe dream and unreliable at best. And more importantly, they understandably fear losing American protection because of it.

And then there's Trump. At the NATO summit, he's sure to renew his call for more defense spending from Europe, especially Germany. This will result in hurt feelings, but Europe and others have to be awakened to the fact that the world is changing. They now have to deal with a strong U.S. president who is finally putting his country first. Uncle Sam will no longer be Uncle Sap who indirectly funds Europe's welfare states. As for NATO, the French president is correct; it is brain dead. NATO is like the fallen Humpty Dumpty, and all the grandees of Europe and hand wringing bureaucrats can't to put it back together again.

Will President Trump get all he is asking for from South Korea, Japan, and Europe? No, but he will get far more than previous presidents who got essentially nothing from our allies.

Many foreign policy experts argue that the president is wrong to demand more from Europe, Japan, and South Korea. The argument goes that this could make them less cooperative and thereby jeopardizes U.S. security. This misses the fundamental point. The purpose of the alliances as they now exist is essentially to defend those allies, not to defend America. If those allies don't wish to work with the U.S., fine, but they would be cutting off their noses to spite their faces. And they know it.

None of this to say that U.S. should go it alone for there are military alliances that are of mutual benefit. One example would be with Japan. The U.S. needs Japan to counter China, while Japan needs the U.S. even more to defend itself from China. There are no doubt other alliances that would be useful but the criteria for them must be that they are 1) in the true national interest of the U.S. and 2) appropriately balanced according to the particular situation. Currently most of our military commitments don't meet those standards, and that is what President Trump is trying to fix.

Media coverage of the attempt of the Democrats (and the media) to impeach the president has drowned out other news. That's a pity because what generally has not been reported is President Trump attempt to readjust the structure of our military alliances. Specifically,

He [President Trump] has now launched a new phase in his effort to secure greater financial burden-sharing. The first salvo was his demand that Seoul agree to a five-fold increase in its annual payment to offset some of the cost of U.S. troops stationed in that country -- a boost that would bring the total to $4.7 billion. Just days later, he called on Tokyo to quadruple its payment for U.S. forces deployed in Japan from $2 billion to $8 billion. There is now rampant speculation that he will adopt a similar stance towards the European allies, especially Germany leading up to the NATO summit in early December.

In addition to the absurdity of the U.S. carrying an inordinate share of the financial burden of defending wealthy foreign countries, there is another fundamental point. Namely, do these alliances and military commitments actually serve American national interests? Take South Korea as an example. It has twice the population of North Korea and an economy about 50 times greater. Given that, why can't South Korea defend itself with, say, minimal help from the U.S.? The answer is that it can but would rather to continue to freeload on America's back.

As to Europe, the same story holds true. Germany, the economic powerhouse of the European Union, contributes a miserable 1.2 percent towards its defense relying on America to take care of the bulk of it.  And the Germans take umbrage when the U.S. dares to complain about this imbalance. As for military commitments, the U.S. technically bound to defend countries such as Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, and Montenegro. How in heaven's name do any of them contribute to American security? Answer is they don't. On the contrary, those military promises in Europe, like the one to South Korea, put the U.S. at risk.

NATO will hold a Summit of Allied leaders from December 3-4 in London which will mark the 70th anniversary of its founding. This meeting should be interesting to say the least. French President Emmanuel Marcon has already staked out his agenda. He revealed it when he took a swipe at NATO by calling it 'brain dead' in an interview with The Economist Marcon coupled this with a renewed his call for a European army outside of NATO. This has set the smaller European countries in a near panic. They view Marcon's vision of a united European military force as a pipe dream and unreliable at best. And more importantly, they understandably fear losing American protection because of it.

And then there's Trump. At the NATO summit, he's sure to renew his call for more defense spending from Europe, especially Germany. This will result in hurt feelings, but Europe and others have to be awakened to the fact that the world is changing. They now have to deal with a strong U.S. president who is finally putting his country first. Uncle Sam will no longer be Uncle Sap who indirectly funds Europe's welfare states. As for NATO, the French president is correct; it is brain dead. NATO is like the fallen Humpty Dumpty, and all the grandees of Europe and hand wringing bureaucrats can't to put it back together again.

Will President Trump get all he is asking for from South Korea, Japan, and Europe? No, but he will get far more than previous presidents who got essentially nothing from our allies.

Many foreign policy experts argue that the president is wrong to demand more from Europe, Japan, and South Korea. The argument goes that this could make them less cooperative and thereby jeopardizes U.S. security. This misses the fundamental point. The purpose of the alliances as they now exist is essentially to defend those allies, not to defend America. If those allies don't wish to work with the U.S., fine, but they would be cutting off their noses to spite their faces. And they know it.

None of this to say that U.S. should go it alone for there are military alliances that are of mutual benefit. One example would be with Japan. The U.S. needs Japan to counter China, while Japan needs the U.S. even more to defend itself from China. There are no doubt other alliances that would be useful but the criteria for them must be that they are 1) in the true national interest of the U.S. and 2) appropriately balanced according to the particular situation. Currently most of our military commitments don't meet those standards, and that is what President Trump is trying to fix.