National Security

Trump to Allies: No More Free Lunch

U.S. taxpayers have footed a large bill for defending other countries for long enough.

Lewis Morris · Mar. 12, 2019

The Trump administration announced late last week that it is drawing up plans to make America’s allies more accountable for our defense of their nations. President Donald Trump argues — and for good reason — that too many countries are freeloading on American strength.

Trump is calling on Germany, Japan, and other nations that host U.S. troops for sustained periods to pay the full cost plus 50% for the privilege. Ever since the 2016 campaign, Trump has made an issue of the fact that many of America’s allies, particularly in NATO, do not even pay their agreed-upon share of the mutual defense pact.

Regulations stipulate that NATO members are to contribute a paltry 2% of their GDP, but last year only five of the alliance’s 29 members met that goal.

“It’s very unfair,” Trump said of NATO during the campaign. “They weren’t paying, so not only are we paying for most of it, but they weren’t even paying and we’re protecting them.”

After Trump was elected, he took his concerns to America’s NATO allies but was rejected. The Europeans tend to only like American presidents who don’t ask anything of them. That’s why leftist “citizens of the world” like Barack Obama are so popular across the Pond.

Trump’s call for cost plus 50% might seem steep, and it would mean a significant increase in payments in some countries, but this is likely the art of the deal at work. The high starting percentage allows for negotiating room for lower, but justifiable, payments that would satisfy Trump and help alleviate some of America’s defense costs.

Another possibility is that Trump may be using this proposal as cover to end American military commitments in certain countries. If some nations can’t afford the rent, they may just ask American troops to withdraw.

This proposal to start billing our allies for defending them has been a long time coming. Western Europe, Japan, and many other American allies around the globe have profited from our protection for decades. Our heavy spending has allowed them the luxury to funnel their resources away from defense and toward other things.

During the Cold War, not many questioned this arrangement. America encircled the world with military bases, naval fleets, infantry, and artillery to hinder the spread of communism and to protect free peoples. It worked, and it it served U.S. vital national security interests.

One problem that developed out of the Pax Americana, however, was complacent indigenous populations. A poll conducted in Europe last year found that not one nation among NATO’s core members has a majority of citizens who would fight for their country under any circumstances. That’s a sad state of affairs.

Europe as a continent has been slowly slipping into history’s dustbin for the last 25 years. It’s being overrun by jihadists who are setting up their own enclaves and enforcing sharia law. It steadfastly refuses to address an illegal immigrant problem. It’s governed by a bloated bureaucracy that is economically stifling the entire continent. It has an aging population because adults are having too much fun being children instead of growing up and actually having some. Germany and other countries are willingly beholding themselves to Russia’s Gazprom conglomerate for fuel.

Most of Europe’s problems are of its own making, and, some might say, if Europeans want to run their continent into the ground, so be it. To each their own. Some might also ask, if the Europeans aren’t interested in their own defense, then why should America be concerned? America remains the mightiest military power on Earth, but we can only do so much. Helping people who can’t help themselves is one thing. Helping people who refuse to help themselves is asking for trouble.

If Trump gets his way, we could still economically protect our ungrateful allies — which is still in our national interest to do. We’ll just send them the bill. But how would Americans feel about sending our sons and daughters overseas to fight a war if the indigenous people we’re sent to protect aren’t invested in their own security?

It’s high time that our allies started paying their already agreed upon share for their own defense.

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