The security concerns for Europe rests deeply in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and its established members. It is imperative, according to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, for NATO members to attempt to increase their defense spending. These commitments were discussed back in 2014, where the heads of states agreed to a 2.0% increase in defense spending of GDP, which includes armies, munitions, and other things that are characterized as defense spending. However, only the United States, Greece, Estonia, Poland, and Britain were successful in meeting the target.
It has been known for some time that U.S. President Donald Trump is keen on the idea for other NATO members to pull their weight. The NATO Secretary-General agreed with President Trump’s concerns on having other states pay their appropriate share and contribute to their common defense objectives. In order to enforce that leap forward and get NATO back on track, the U.S. government and Secretary-General Stoltenberg called on Germany to set the example to fulfill NATO commitments. Michael Fallon, the British Defense Secretary, also called on other European allies to listen to the requests by the Secretary-General and the American government. Germany has been categorized as the de facto leader within Europe and the European Union. From President Trump’s point-of-view, the top European country needs to step up to the plate. It is their hope that a U.S. and German agreement on investing more on NATO”S security developments would only benefit the organization going forward. Some 3, 500 additional American troops were shipped to Germany and other parts of Eastern Europe. Many political commentators compared the vast deployment of American troops to the deployment of U.S. military to Western Europe during the final years the Cold War. Today, Rex Tillerson, the U.S. Secretary of State, said that total commitments to NATO is vital to counter Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine and ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis reiterated the message President Trump conveyed to Europe stating that the U.S. will continue to support NATO as long as everyone else supports it as well. It is the American’s hope that European head of states will no longer cheap ride their commitments to defense development and security apparatus. On the German perspective, Sigmar Gabriel, the German Foreign Minister, calls the push to raising defense spending to 2.0% of GDP ridiculous and unimaginable. In addition, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker voiced his outrage toward the Trump administration for criticizing their efforts and responsibilities to NATO. Juncker acknowledges the fact that the American government has been pushing this concept of increased spending for a number of years but is very disappointed in President Trump’s attempts to continue that approach.
However, commentators would agree that Europe, especially Germany, has a lot to lose if their defense strategy is not guaranteed by the international community’s standards. Stoltenberg expresses that Europe is closer to enemy line than the U.S. Global tensions are heating up in Syria, Iraq and Russia and these have all been discussed heavily in Germany, particularly due to the timing of the German general elections, further dividing Germany’s coalition in Berlin comprised of the left and right political parties. Chancellor Angela Merkel, on one hand, agrees that increased spending in defense would move NATO in the right direction, but questions the demand by the U.S. government to increase their spending to 2.0%. Instead, more spending should count toward developmental aid to help resolve and prevent global crises.
But increasing defense spending only means that another development plan will suffer from lack of funding. Particularly, the German Social Democrats are worried over the idea that the need to increase defense spending would cut social development spending. Stoltenberg, in hopes to ease the American-German tension, stated that NATO would be willing to offer an 8.0% budget boost to the Bundeswehr (German military). Furthermore, he also agrees with Germany’s concerns that increasing their defense spending by 2.0% in one or two years is unrealistic, but wants to reassure the German government that pertinent members need to come up with a plan to meet the goal by their next month’s summit in Brussel, Belgium.
What NATO members need to understand is that full commitment to the establishment that wants to prevent crises and tragedies is important to promote peace. The upcoming summit needs to address the issues of increased spending by presenting ways to implement international security policies. But international sessions, like the Brussels summit, needs to start by having the world’s top hegemon and the European hegemon to agree on the right direction and goal of NATO.
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