Trump’s Agenda-Setting At NATO Meeting And Its Implications For Defense Spending

The Northern Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meeting took place in Belgium  from the 11th– 12th of July where the leaders of one of the world’s oldest, and some would say strongest, alliances met. Such meetings are important to ensure the agendas of the alliance are collaborative, current and the relations between the countries are upheld. But the rant like Twitter post of U.S President Donald Trump in the lead up to the NATO meeting suggested political bullying as he aimed to set the agenda of the meeting to the topic of increasing defense spending budgets for NATO members. He does this in a public way that allows him to appear in a position of domination to people across the world and social media followers.

European Council President Donald Tusk suggested in the lead up to the meeting that Trump is treading finely amongst his fellow allies. Tusk sought to remind him that he is the President of America and not that of the world, and while he has the right to voice his opinion, he cannot expect his pressures to resonate or impact their policy. Secondly, it is concerning because while increasing defense spending can be precautionary, it could also mean more global intervention and potentially a less ‘peaceful’ world, if intervention in war zones and new feud arise between large powers like China and the U.S or Russia.

According to BBC footage, Trump made issue of the EU states’ reliance on Russia for gas as a form of bullying, suggesting they shouldn’t rely so heavily on them as it creates an untrustworthy alliance and question the reasons for belonging to NATO. While these claims are a genuine consideration, it is the way that Trump uses social media to convey this rhetoric and that the NATO leaders must pick and choose between their support for the U.S or Russia, when both can work in coexistence rather than opposition, as they have done so for years.

Increasing defense budgets is concerning, and words spoken after the NATO meeting seem to confirm this as they left Trump ‘very very happy,’ claiming that a tremendous amount of progress was made. But further reports by Al Jazeera suggest that the real headway was limited. Trump’s ultimate aim was to raise GDP spending by NATO states on defense to 4%, but he walked away with people to raising their budgets to 2% of GDP. However, this was already a goal set in 2014 to be reached by 2024, so there is no new increase in defense spending proposed after the NATO meeting, which suggests that there is no huge change to defense spending or military intervention globally. Citing only the vocal pressure of the U.S and his desire to show a powerful position is misleading in the outcome of the defense  spending issue.

Trump’s cooperation and intentional media flooding in the lead up to meetings with foreign leaders is a known habit and has occurred in many instances, including that of the recent G7 summit. The case of political bullying and agenda setting is also a known habit, suggesting he seeks a superior power position over many of the other world leaders. These leaders are also aware of his dominating and loud political rhetoric, and it is fortunate that they react in the passive ways that they do to his suggestion, otherwise the international sphere has the potential to enter into a Cold War atmosphere, along-side the trade wars and Brexit decision making. If defense spending is to see a increase from all NATO states to that of 4%, there needs to be better planned proof for this increase that guarantees to state citizens that they are not succumbing to international pressure but rather independent informed national decisions.