Trump’s NATO Ultimatums: Red Letter or Red Herring?
There is no justification for the obscene levels of military spending across the world says Lindsey German
The news that Donald Trump has sent ‘strongly worded’ letters to various heads of government about their defence spending shows that the US president is determined to put the squeeze on ahead of the NATO summit in Brussels next week.
He has written to heads of government in Germany, Belgium, Canada and Norway, demanding that they up the proportion of their national wealth that they spend on the military to at least 2% of GDP. This follows agreement at the 2014 NATO summit in Wales that all countries would do so.
The Trump ultimatums create nervousness among US allies, not only because a small minority of countries pay the 2%, but because they fear Trump’s irascible behaviour. At present the US, UK, Greece, Estonia and Poland get at the 2% level or above, out of 28 member states. Germany spends little over 1% of its GDP, which is why Trump addressed a particularly acerbic complaint to Angela Merkel that she was setting a bad example.
Fears that this will spill over into a row in Brussels are heightened by the proximity between this summit and the one with Russian president Vladimir Putin which will take place the following Monday in Helsinki. NATO is overwhelmingly dominated by the US and has in recent decades expanded on a major scale across eastern Europe, right up to the Russian border. Trump is potentially threatening that operation and the military manoeuvres and troop placements now widespread across Eastern Europe.
This is particularly difficult for the British government, which is struggling to maintain its place as a tier one military power, and where there is a row within the Tory government over the amount of defence spending. Defence secretary Gavin Williamson wants another whacking £20 billion a year spent on it, an increase of 50%. Trump is also of course visiting Britain between the NATO and Russian summits.
While this might have looked like a good idea at the time, the risk for Theresa May is that this will now be sandwiched between a bad tempered and divided NATO summit, and a much closer meeting between Trump and Putin. There is every reason to mark his visit by huge demonstrations everywhere he goes, from Blenheim Palace and Chequers in the English countryside to mass protest in London on 13th July and in Edinburgh the following day when he visits Scotland to play golf.
There is no justification for the obscene levels of military spending across the world, headed up by that of the US. There are many reasons to demonstrate against Trump – over migrants, women’s rights, racism and Palestine. But the demonstration also sends a message to the other NATO states and to our own government, one which says we do not want this drive to war.