Trump Should Make NATO Great Again

Donald Trump, Sept. 13, 2016The Trump Administration should take early steps to reassure European allies that America remains committed to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)….

In order to get the alliance back on track the Trump Administration must:

Lead NATO back to basics. NATO does not have to be everywhere doing everything. It does not have to become a global counterterrorism force or the West’s main tool for delivering humanitarian aid. However, NATO does have to be capable of defending its members’ territorial integrity.

Reiterate America’s commitment to Europe. President-elect Trump should reiterate that it is in America’s best interest to remain actively engaged in NATO. A peaceful, stable Europe has led to economic, political, and military dividends that have had an immeasurable positive effect on the U.S.

Take a realistic approach to Russia. As long as Putin remains in power, the experiences of the Bush (43) and Obama Administrations show that Russia will not be a credible partner of the U.S. The Trump Administration should learn from the mistakes of the past instead of repeating them in the future.

Commit unconditionally to America’s NATO treaty obligations. As long as the U.S. remains a member of the alliance, it must be made crystal clear to any adversary that an attack on one NATO member will be considered an attack on all. Any deviation from this commitment will only invite aggression.

Lead by example in the alliance and reverse defense budget cuts. Many Europeans use defense cuts in the U.S. as justification for their own cuts. The U.S. should lead by example in the alliance and reverse defense budget cuts in a fiscally responsible manner.

Press allies on defense spending. Trump did a good job during his campaign bringing attention to the overall lack of defense spending across Europe. However, this issue needs to be addressed without putting America’s commitment to NATO’s collective security guarantee into question.

Encourage NATO to involve finance ministers. There should be a special session for finance ministers (or their equivalent) at the next mini-summit in 2017. In many parliamentary democracies, the finance minister controls public spending. Educating the finance ministers on the importance of military investment might help secure more defense spending in the long term.

Set a concrete timeline for achieving NATO benchmarks. While many member states make vague promises about attaining 2 percent of GDP defense spending in the future, few have followed through. The U.S. should encourage NATO members to embed defense spending commitments and timelines in legislation. This will help to increase transparency and political accountability….

Luke Coffey is Director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy, of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, at The Heritage Foundation.

Image: Donald Trump, Sept. 13, 2016 (photo: Michael Vadon)