Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Trump still thinks that other countries pay the U.S. for the privilege of being in NATO

So one of Trump's ad lib moments during last night's speech ran into one of my pet issues:
What about the money that’s “pouring in” from Nato, because of “very strong and frank discussions” with Donald Trump the hard negotiator? It’s been widely reported that this sentence was an ad-lib by Trump, absent from the original transcript of the speech. Bloomberg’s Nick Wadhams, among others, said that this could best be explained by Trump taking credit for the 28 member states in Nato raising their defence budgets over the last three years or so – many of whom decided to up those budgets before Trump became president. It’s true that few of the member states were keeping religiously to Nato’s defence target of 2 per cent, but recent global events (not least European countries’ concerns about Russia after the annexation of Crimea) have played a part in changing that. It’s doubtful that the rhetoric of Donald Trump was the sole – or even the main – reason for those developments.
I think Nick Wadhams' and those others' interpretation of Trump's remarks are being overly charitable. During the election campaign Trump repeatedly talked about how NATO allies weren't paying their fair share. As I mentioned at the time, those remarks revealed that Trump thought that NATO is a U.S.-run protection racket, rather than a mutual defense treaty. Trump's statement last night reveals that he still thinks that NATO members pay the U.S. for the privilege of being NATO members. That is more what "money is pouring in" sounds like to me. It does not sound like he is saying that NATO members are increasing their defense spending.

If meant that NATO members were increasing their military budget, where would the money be pouring in to? When a country increases its defense spending, the money usually goes to itself (its own soldiers), although some could go to foreign military contractors. When I hear that clip, it sounds to me like he thinks that this country is getting the money.