Returning from the World War I armistice commemoration in Paris, President Trump reemphasized his view of America’s European allies. “We pay for large portions of other countries’ military protection,” he wrote on Twitter, and “it is time that these very rich countries either pay the United States for its great military protection, or protect themselves.” Trump’s criticisms are, of course, nothing new—since the 2016 campaign he has routinely highlighted the ways in which free-riding allies purportedly take advantage of American largess.
But underlying the president’s position lies an assumption that is now worthy of close consideration: that the United States defends Europe, and stations troops on the continent, based on an impulse that is either fundamentally charitable, anachronistic, or both. As a result, it follows that we’ve been played by allies enriching themselves under our protection. Trump seems to believe that such altruism merits gratitude; the French, he observed, were “starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along.”
The truth, however, is that the U.S. helps Europe because in so doing it helps itself. Twice in the first half of the 20th century, the United States went to Europe to end wars that had engulfed the world. These were not acts of charity, but of national self-interest. Following the second world war, American leaders resolved not to permit such catastrophes to reoccur. Their solution was to remain in Europe, commit to its defense, and deploy troops there as a way to keep the peace. The bargain has been straightforward: America gets bases and a guarantee that we won’t have to fight alone; European allies get protection from the world’s foremost military. All get stability and peace on the continent.
Read the full article in The Atlantic.
More from CNAS
PodcastRose Gottemoeller on NATO, Arms Control, and a Career in Civil Service
Rose Gottemoeller, former Deputy Secretary General of NATO, joins Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend to discuss the the state of the Alliance, arms control, and the challe...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Rose Gottemoeller
PodcastVladimir Milov on Russian Politics
Vladimir Milov, Russian politician and former Visiting Scholar with the Carnegie Endowment, joins Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend to discuss Russian opposition politics...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Vladimir Milov
PodcastKathleen McInnis Discusses "The Heart of War"
Kathleen McInnis, International Security Analyst for the Congressional Research Service, joins Carisa Nietsche and Jim Townsend to discuss her book, “The Heart of War: Misadve...
By Carisa Nietsche, Jim Townsend & Kathleen McInnis
PodcastMatti Anttonen on Arctic Security
Matti Anttonen, State Secretary of Finland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, joins Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend for a conversation about Arctic security, Finland’s fore...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Matti Anttonen