The U.S. Department of Defense is currently considering the deployment of substantial new military hardware to Europe in order to create a counterweight to an increasingly aggressive Russian government. The Pentagon is reportedly examining plans that would see tanks, armored fighting vehicles and all the attendant equipment that would allow a contingent U.S. troops to rapidly deploy to Europe, stored in bases there.
The reasoning, while perhaps unpleasant, is fairly obvious. Having recently invaded Ukraine, and illegally “annexed” the Crimean peninsula, Russia is now occupied in further provocations: flying nuclear capable combat aircraft along the edges of its neighbors’ territorial airspace, sending submarines into other countries’ territorial waters, and, most recently, proposing a large expansion of its nuclear weapons program.
However, while the United States is proposing a substantial increase in its commitment of materiel, with the implied promise of personnel, to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s collective defense, NATO allies are notably reluctant to spend any more money on defense.
On Monday, Reuters reported that spending on defense by the countries in the alliance would fall by 1.5 percent. It fell by 3.9 percent last year, and remains substantially below the overall 2 percent of GDP that NATO countries are expected to spend on national defense in order to remain in compliance with the treaty.
The issue has become a perennial source of conflict between the U.S. and its allies.
In April of last year, vice President Joe Biden traveled to Europe, and in a speech to the Atlantic Council expressed the hope of the U.S. that European members of NATO would soon increase their commitment to collective defense by increasing their defense spending.
He took an even harsher tone in May of this year, speaking at the Brookings Institution.
“[T]he NATO Treaty represents a sacred commitment on our part and every other NATO member,” he said. “NATO's readiness action plan is an important start, allowing us to step up our military presence in the air and sea and on the land, from the Baltics and Poland to Romania and Bulgaria. And we're pleased that some of our NATO allies have made similar contributions.
“But at this time of crisis too many of our allies are still failing to meet their commitment…to spend two percent of their GDP on defense. This situation is not sustainable. Collective defense must be a shared responsibility, not just in rhetoric, but in resources as well.”
The way it looks now, the financial commitment by the U.S. to NATO may continue to outpace the collective efforts of the alliance’s European members for some time.
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