The Uncertain Future of US & NATO Relations
President Trump’s recent comments about NATO have left many to speculate on the future of US/NATO relations under Trump’s administration. In an interview with the London Times, President Trump was critical of numerous NATO members who do not meet the expected 2% of their GDP standard on defense spending.
As of April 2016, only 5 of the 28 members are spending this expected 2% of their GDP on defense, including the United States, UK, Poland, Estonia, and Greece. This has led many to question the commitment of the other 23 countries in NATO.
Additionally, the Trump administration appears to be cozying up to Putin and Russia, which brings up further questions about NATO’s future and the role the US will have in NATO. For years NATO has been a point of contention for Putin; especially after the inclusion of the former Warsaw Pact countries into NATO took place in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The inclusion of the Warsaw Pact countries, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia, threaten Russia in two ways. First, geographically speaking, the proximity of Russia to these countries, specifically Poland who as noted before spends over 2% of their GDP on defense, is seen as a threat in Russia. Additionally, under the Obama administration, Poland was and still is currently being used for a US/NATO strategic missile defense. While the US has been adamant that the proximity of these missiles is to protect Europe from ‘rogue’ states, Moscow views these weapons as an attempt by the West to disrupt the security balance in Europe. Secondly, the inclusion of the former Warsaw Pact members is perceived as a slight against Russian prestige and honor. Putin has publicly declared his disapproval and hatred for Russian foreign policy decisions made during the 1990’s. Many scholars believe that Putin is on a mission to increase his influence over European affairs to regain Russian esteem.
There is widespread speculation about the future of US involvement in NATO under Trump’s administration. To put it simply, we do not know what President Trump will do. He is unpredictable, and this unpredictability is terrifying European leaders. It is the hopes of many, myself included, that a clear and concise strategy for continuous US involvement in NATO will be formulated after President Trump meets with NATO leaders this coming May.