North American and European leaders are cautiously optimistic as they begin to arrive in Brussels for this week’s NATO summit. Although the summit traditionally is primarily a symbolic meeting where leaders reaffirm their commitments to the alliance, President Trump’s actions at last month’s G-7 raise serious concerns. Trump used the G-7 as a forum to question global trade imbalances, causing a spat with some of America’s foremost allies.
Harvard Political Review: Patrick McClanahan believes Trump’s “comments draw into question the United States’ commitment to the [NATO] alliance.”
• “NATO has provided the United States with its most stable partners and allies throughout the post-World War II era.”
• “Trump’s proposed NATO policies also raise significant concerns for America’s European allies.”
• “If the United States appears to be an uncommitted partner to NATO, Vladimir Putin may see an opportunity to further expand Russia’s sphere of influence in Europe.”
Syracuse Daily Orange: Satoshi Sugiyama covered a national security conference, hosted by Syracuse, at which Nathan Sales, associate professor at the Syracuse College of Law, “discussed the importance of the NATO alliance under the Trump administration.”
• “He pointed out there’s a great level of uncertainty over the U.S.’s approach to the international alliance and how to deal with increasingly aggressive states such as Russia.”
• “Sales refuted the idea that the U.S. is in NATO through goodness of the heart and pays for the self-defense of ‘lazy Europeans.’”
• According to Sales, the U.S. remains in the alliance “because NATO has been the most successful international alliance, I think in history, at maintaining stability in the international arena.”
Harvard Political Review: Johannes Lang believes Donald Trump “might have been onto something” when he called NATO “obsolete,” his first criticism of the alliance.
• “The United States has repeatedly turned a blind eye to the chronic underpaying of its European friends.”
• “Although the total budget of America’s European allies exceeds that of the United States, the latter accounts for roughly three quarters of NATO’s total military spending. This alarming discrepancy has only increased in recent years.”
• “Today, only four of the 27 other member states spend the requisite two percent of GDP on defense.”
• Although Trump “is poised to neglect the nuances of American strategy,” NATO “is not obsolete, but it is also not sustainable in its current form.”
The Bottom Line:
The upcoming Brussels summit will likely highlight the Trump administration’s NATO strategy moving forward. Last month’s G-7 meeting unraveled over trade indifferences aggravated by President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In the meantime, Trump has completed a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and has a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin scheduled to take place in Helsinki next week. Trump’s rhetoric, which has often scolded traditional U.S. allies and praised authoritarian leaders, worries groups like NATO which seek to maintain traditional western cohesion. Should Trump continue to antagonize European leaders, he will likely magnify existing fissures over issues like trade and immigration that divide the world’s largest military alliance.