Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, says President Trump should tell Poland and other European nations to provide for their own defense, rather than come calling on the U.S. to fight their battles for them. Bandow writes at The American Conservative (abridged):
Before taking office Trump seemed to understand that European free-riding was counterproductive. What about now?
For years American officials have variously demanded, urged, and begged European governments to increase military outlays. For years the Europeans have instead reduced their spending, manpower, and procurement. There has been a slight uptick in their defense efforts under President Donald Trump, but most NATO members, including large and important nations such as Germany, Italy, and Spain, aren’t coming close to meeting the official standard of spending 2 percent of their GDPs on defense.
Now Poland, which fell just short of that level last year, is requesting that Washington establish a permanent base and garrison. Warsaw says it will kick in a couple billion dollars, while Washington can pick up the change on its way to confronting nuclear-armed Russia in a crisis.
But instead of sticking America with yet another tab, it would make more sense for Poland to send its bill to Berlin.
What does Europe need for its defense? Inadequate resources is not a problem. The continent enjoys about 12 times the economic strength of Russia. Italy’s GDP alone is larger than that of Russia. Moreover, the Europeans have more than three times Russia’s population.
Yet none of the nations worried in principle about Russian aggression act worried about it in practice. Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, and Romania respectively devote 1.53, 1.73, 1.75, 1.80, 1.99, and 2.08 percent of their GDPs to their militaries. That compares to America’s 3.57 percent.
Before taking office, the president seemed to understand that America’s defense of Europe was counterproductive. But he surrounded himself with officials determined to increase U.S. military entanglements. And the Polish government is lobbying hard. Opined Polish defense minister Mariusz Blaszczak: “The decisions on this matter are moving in a good direction,” by which he meant bad for the American people.
The president should tell Warsaw no. If Poland doesn’t want to raise more of its own soldiers, then it should hire a few Hessians from its German neighbor.
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