Europe must hurry to defend itself against Russia – and Donald Trump

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mef Donald Trump returned to the White House, what version will it be? The one that made allies spend more on defense, reinforced NATO troops in the east and began arming Ukraine; or the one who threatened to leave the alliance and accepted Vladimir Putin? To judge from his latest campaign antics, he is likely to destroy the Western alliance.

At a rally on February 10 Mr Trump, the near-certain Republican presidential nominee described how the leader of a “big country” once asked him if America would protect an alliance that was “delinquent” on its payments, according to apparently a man who did not meet. the NATO target of consumption 2% of GDP on defense. “No, I wouldn’t protect you,” Mr Trump replied. “Of course, I would encourage them to do whatever they want. You have to pay. You have to pay your bills.”

Those words are Mr Trump’s worst attack yet NATO, and should set off alarms across the defense alliance. It doesn’t matter if he was engaging in hyperbole or reciting an old conversation. Encouraging Russia to attack any NATO country in any way to undermine the sacred promise in Article 5 of the Atlantic Treaty: that an attack on one ally is an attack on all; and that an attack on even the smallest part is an attack on America. Contrast Mr Trump’s rejection of allies with President Joe Biden’s warning to Russia that America will defend “every inch” of NATO end

The ban message has since worked NATO was established in 1949. After the end of the cold war NATO this allowed the spread of democracy and economic prosperity to the countries of the former Soviet bloc. In the last two years Article 5, and practice NATO forces in Eastern Europe, have kept allies safe even as Russia has saved Ukraine. NATO has encouraged members to help Ukraine defend itself. The federation is still attracting members, recently Finland and, soon, Sweden. But cast any doubt on Article 5, and the alliance is of little value. As deterrence erodes, the risk of future war will grow accordingly.

The Don

Mr. Trump is hardly the first president to complain about volunteer allies – and rightfully so. But it turns a democratic alliance into a mobster’s racket: no money, no American protection. Mr. Trump claims that he succeeded because he barely got friends to spend billions more on defense. In 2017, his first year in office, just four of 29 NATO the relatives met the 2% target, respectively NATO figures. By 2020, his last, this had increased to nine. Mr. Trump certainly helped push the friends. The biggest impetus was the growing threat from Russia: defense spending began to rise in 2015, before Mr Trump’s time, and continued long after. In 2023, with Mr. Biden in power, 11 out of 31 allies made the 2% target; a majority may reach it this year.

If elected, Mr. Trump’s second term policies would depend in part on who he appoints to key positions. But its beautiful influence is already felt. Against the better judgment of some Republicans, Mr. Trump’s “America first” devotees have for months blocked a bill to renew military and civilian aid to Ukraine. Recent legislation asking Congress to allow him to withdraw from America NATO there would be little interference. Congress cannot stop a president from impeachment NATO by, say, withdrawing American troops from Europe or simply refusing to uphold Article 5 and defend allies under attack.

Mr. Trump and his congressional apologists boast that he stopped major wars on his watch because his enemies were afraid of him. Speaking after Mr. Trump’s latest outburst, Senator Lindsey Graham said, “Russia did not attack anyone when he was president.” Senator Marco Rubio said “I’m not worried, because he’s been president before.” By taking his words, security-minded Republicans are only adding to their ‘ harm. With Russia pushing against Ukraine’s defenders and ramping up its military output, any weakening of NATO it will increase the risk of wider conflict.

The idea that you can ignore what Mr. Trump said NATO, because his real intention could be different, very sober. Deterrence works when the commitment to collective defense is complete and unequivocal. By casting doubt, Mr. Trump has invited Russia and other adversaries to test the West’s resolve. Denmark’s defense minister recently warned that Russia might conduct a test NATO members’ commitment to Article 5 within three to five years. His colleague in Britain said that the country must prepare for wars involving Russia, China, Iran or North Korea in the next five years.

Europeans must act urgently to face twin threats: an attack by Russia and American abandonment. Instead of complaining about Mr. Trump, they should get on with meeting the 2% target. They should also review the threshold: 3% of GDP maybe that is what is now needed to meet NATOand existing defense plans, and it would have to be higher without American support. America spent nearly 3.5% of GDP on defense last year. Europeans are at far greater risk.

Europeans must invest in everything from weapons to the other things that America provides at scale: transport and aircraft refueling, air defenses, command and control systems and intelligence platforms from satellites to drones . Europeans must not only spend more, but they must spend better. They should buy more equipment together and integrate their defense businesses. To encourage laggards, they should agree that candidates from countries that do not meet minimum standards cannot hold high positions.

This serves three purposes: strengthening the ability of Europeans to help Ukraine and defend themselves against Russia; proof that the Europeans share the burden and that the alliance is good for America; and create a hedge against Mr. Trump’s abandonment. The European Union has developed its defense capabilities in recent years but is not an alternative security provider. Better for Europeans to think how to take over the existing structure NATO if America leaves (while it is open that a post-Trump America could try to rejoin). One question is whether to review unanimous rules. Decisions are hard enough with a good American hegemon – seeing the delay in getting into Finland and Sweden. It will be impossible in a limited alliance of small and medium friends.

The most sensitive question is how the two states in Europe with nuclear weapons, Britain and France, can impose more restrictions on European alliances without an American nuclear umbrella. At the moment they only have about 500 warheads between them, compared to over 5,000 for America and almost 6,000 for Russia. And the creation of a Europe-wide nuclear deterrent would involve very sensitive questions: France would undoubtedly see its vital interests involved in an attack on Germany, but would it extend its commitment to eastern europe? How long could Britain keep its nuclear warheads and missiles, the latter drawn from a stockpile shared with America, if the occupant of the House White to break cooperation?

Considering all this makes it sad, even scary. As the post-war system begins to crumble, and American leaders question the role of their county as a guarantor of security, its friends everywhere will feel vulnerable. They will spend more on weapons and change their security credentials. This defensive drive to rearm and create new, more independent armed forces could itself be seen as a growing threat by Western enemies – prompting them, in turn, to rearm . That would make the world a much more dangerous place – including America.

Losing American power would not be possible. However, if governments begin to believe that the United States cannot be relied upon to step in in a crisis, they will have little choice but to rearm. The best way to prevent this – and mitigate it if a hostile Mr Trump comes to power – is to prepare for it.

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