Trump’s Strategy to Get NATO to Spend More Is Working—but Will It in the Long Run?

    Raymond Kuo

    Security, Europe

    Donald Trump (US President) and Recep Tayyip Erdogan (President of Turkey)

    Trump may be exchanging long-term stability for short-term gain.

    Many American presidents have tried to get the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members to contribute more to their defense. For example, President Obama said that “every NATO member has to do its fair share.” President Eisenhower said that “[Europeans are] making a sucker out of Uncle Sam.” James Schlesinger, Nixon’s Secretary of Defense, even asked members to spend 5 percent of their GDP, compared to the 2 percent target now.

    Trump has joined this chorus, repeatedly claiming that “NATO members that aren’t paying their bills” and are treating the Atlantic Alliance more as an extortion racket than the world’s preeminent interstate security agreement. But according to my research, where others have failed, Trump might be succeeding (although probably inadvertently). But this possible, short-term success is also undermining NATO’s medium and long-term cohesion.

    What My Research Finds

    All international treaties are made under “anarchy,” a condition where no external authority will enforce agreements or punish violations. States can only rely on their own resources for their defense, or that of allies who contribute to shared defense out of mutual national interests, institutional binding, or normative persuasion.

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