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Director Paris Office, Senior Transatlantic Fellow
The current imbalance in NATO, with the United States carrying around 75 percent of the organization’s military spending, is just not sustainable. U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has a point in underlining this imbalance between transatlantic allies, but his argument is nothing new. In fact, all recent U.S. administrations, including that of current President Barack Obama, have asked their European allies to assume more of their strategic responsibilities, especially in their Eastern and Southern neighborhoods. However, Trump is taking the burden-sharing debate to extreme levels, by directly calling into question the United States’ responsibility as a NATO member state to fulfill its obligations under the alliance’s Article 5 mutual defense clause in case a NATO member state is attacked by Russia.
Trumpism can be described as an acceleration of Obama’s doctrine but with an isolationist twist. Trump sees U.S. foreign policy through purely economic lenses, and not in terms of political benefit and influence. Trumpism may further undermine European security by creating more uncertainties in an already divided and fragile Europe, but it may also encourage U.S. and European allies to redefine the terms of the transatlantic strategic partnership and be transparent about what they expect from one another. Otherwise, Moscow will continue to exploit NATO’s divisions and test NATO’s credibility, including in the Baltic states.
What is necessary is strong political leadership in Europe that is able and willing to invest more in defense and convince public opinion of the importance of such investment to face current and future security challenges.