President Trump continued his criticism of NATO Tuesday before he headed to Europe for a meeting of leaders of the 29-nation alliance Wednesday, trading barbed tweets with European Council President Donald Tusk. The testy exchange was further evidence that the president is right when he says that NATO – created in 1949 – has become obsolete.
The U.S. president understands one of the great cardinal rules of geopolitics that others seem to have forgotten: no alliance lasts forever. After almost 70 years, America and its NATO partners in Europe may be heading for a new relationship, while still remaining friends.
In an early morning tweet Tuesday, President Trump wrote: “Getting ready to leave for Europe. First meeting – NATO. The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them. Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer. On top of that we lose $151 Billion on Trade with the European Union. Charge us big Tariffs (& Barriers)!”
And in another tweet President Trump wrote: “NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!”
Tusk responded with a tweet of his own: “Dear @realDonaldTrump. US doesn’t have and won’t have a better ally than EU. We spend on defense much more than Russia and as much as China. I hope you have no doubt this is an investment in our security, which cannot be said with confidence about Russian & Chinese spending.”
History teaches us obvious reasons for the breakup of alliances. Circumstances and threats change. One country’s mortal enemy one day could be the nation’s best friend the next. Just look back at World War II – our enemies Germany, Japan and Italy are our allies today. Our ally Russia (part of the Soviet Union back then) is our adversary.
There is only one constant when it comes to smart foreign policy. A nation seeks allies and partnership where it has common interests. Sometimes those alliances lose their value or importance over time and break up.
NATO was formed to defend against the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. But the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact died in 1991 – and NATO’s original mission died then as well. Soviet tanks are no longer primed to head into Europe to conquer our NATO partners. NATO is now a world-class military alliance looking for a mission.