Donald Trump’s attitude toward defense spending & his views on European security and the role of US alliances is extremely tricky. On one hand he wants to invest more money in the military, to make it so big and so strong that no one will “mess with us,” and on the other, he wants to reduce how much we spend on defense and also have the military do fewer things.
As he revealed the first public members of his foreign policy team during a meeting with The Washington Post’s editorial board on Monday, March 21, Trump unveiled a new facet of his position on the NATO Alliance.
Trump declared U.S. involvement in NATO may need to be significantly diminished in the coming years, breaking with nearly seven decades of consensus in Washington. “We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore,” Trump said, adding later, “NATO is costing us a fortune, and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money.”
He said Americans are shouldering too much of a burden among NATO nations – particularly when it comes to Ukraine.
“Ukraine is a country that affects us far less than it affects other countries in NATO, and yet we are doing all of the lifting, they’re not doing anything,” he said. “And I say, why is it that Germany is not dealing with NATO on Ukraine?”
He added that the “concept” of NATO is good, but that it is a product of a different time, when the US was wealthier.
Mr. Trump’s objection to the burdens of current US international commitments isn’t limited to Europe either. He also pointed to South Korea as a nation that needs to do more to compensate the US.
“South Korea is very rich,” he said. “Great industrial country. And yet we’re not reimbursed fairly for what we do. We’re constantly, you know, sending our ships, sending our planes, doing our war games. We’re reimbursed a fraction of what this is all costing.”
When told that South Korea pays roughly half of non-personnel costs, Mr. Trump wondered why it wasn’t 100%.
According to Mr. Trump, the US needs to turn its focus to the problems it has at home.
“I know the outer world exists, and I’ll be very cognizant of that, but at the same time, our country is disintegrating, large sections of it, especially in the inner cities,” he said.