It’s off to Europe for Donald Trump tomorrow where he’s apparently spoiling for a fight with our NATO allies over funding.

But are NATO countries really taking advantage of the United States?  The U.S. has had a pretty good arrangement for the last 70+ years.  Now Donald Trump comes along with another “we’re being screwed” issue for his base which, unbelievably, now threatens the alliance.  So we need to think about and understand what’s at stake here. Claire Berlinski has written a must-read on Twitter which has been compiled here.  In summary, she argues:

  • “Modern Europe – liberal, democratic Europe – is the United States’ creation. This story was once known to every American, but as the generation responsible for this achievement dies, so too has the knowledge ceased to be passed down casually, within families.
  • The United States built this modern order upon an architecture of specific institutions: the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the International Court of Justice, the World Economic Forum, and above all NATO and the US.
  • Europe was designed – by the United States – to be the other half of the West. Europe’s success is a global advertisement for liberal democracy. The collapse of liberal democracy in Europe would represent the failure of these ideals — upon which the United States also rests.
  • Neither Europe nor the US are wealthy or powerful enough, alone, to sustain and expand liberal democracy in a world growingly dominated by China, Russia, and anarchy. No European country alone, nor any of the American states alone, can now sustain the global liberal order.

So what is the benefit of an organization like NATO to the United States?

  • “Since World War II, we have been deployed in Eurasia to ensure it cannot be dominated by a single power capable of monopolizing, and turning against us, the resources of Europe or East Asia.
  • “We do this by suppressing security competition in those regions. We build our own overwhelmingly massive military assets and locate them, strategically, as a warning: You cannot win. Don’t even try. By this means, we prevent local arms races before they begin.
  • “Simultaneously, we say, “But there is no need to try. Your safety is guaranteed. You need not worry about this.” And we regularly show, often at terrible risk to ourselves, that we mean this.” This has largely kept the peace in Europe for 74 years.”

And now, look at where we are.  The United States now kisses up to Kim, the North Korean dictator, lavishes over Putin and NATO is rightfully nervous.

As the New York Times writes, NATO summits once were snooze-fests where countries got together to reaffirm the alliance.  Now?

  • “In the Trump era, however, they have become anxiety-producing confrontations where the main object is to avoid long-term damage to the alliance. For the allies, that has meant figuring out how to handle President Trump, who arrives on Tuesday for this year’s summit meeting having already sent letters to some NATO member countries pressuring them to expand their military budgets.”

Imagine the reaction from any previous president to a citizen of a NATO country dying from poison delivered by the Russians.  From Trump?  Crickets.