Subscribe via RSS Feed

The Dangers of Trump’s Approach to Burden Sharing

[ 59 ] February 16, 2017 |

It seems a bit anti-climatic after today’s Presidential performance, but I have a piece (co-authored with Abe Newman) at Vox’s “The Big Idea” section on burden-sharing. The title is somewhat misleading: the crux of our argument is that the benefits of burden-sharing are overblown, the context in which the Trump Administration is pushing for it are dangerous—especially in Europe, and the US derives important benefits from the asymmetry in capabilities it enjoys with its security partners.

The argument for “burden sharing” — that American allies, who are much richer in both absolute and relative terms than when the United States established the current global security architecture, should pay a larger share for their own defense — is far from new. During the primaries, Bernie Sanders called for American allies to do more, and Hilary Clinton pledged to work with NATO partners to get them to meet the 2 percent of GDP spending targets affirmed at a 2014 NATO summit in Wales. (In fact, there is considerable variation on how much NATO members spend on defense. Some, including Greece, Estonia, and Poland, easily meet the target. Others — such as Hungary, Canada, or Slovenia — spend closer to 1 percent of GDP.)

But the Trump administration’s statements and dispositions seem to go further than previous calls for burden sharing. Many allies — especially those on the front line with Russia, like the Baltic States and Poland — are extremely worried that Trump intends to in effect abandon long-standing commitments.

Go read, if so inclined.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Comments (59)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Murc says:

    Good to see you posting here more, Dan.

  2. McAllen says:

    Hooray, more ways Trump is ruining the US!

  3. ochospantalones says:

    But since Trump says he wants to increase defense spending regardless of how his bid for burden sharing plays out, it’s even unclear what economic benefit the United States will derive from pressuring its allies.

    This is what I find to be so strange about the Trump administration’s focus on this issue. They’re not planning to realize any savings to the U.S. from it even if they succeed in making other countries pay more. The ordinary theory of this is that as our allies start to pay more, we can pay less. But Trump is committed to a substantial build up of American military spending regardless of what anyone else is doing. So what is the goal meant to be?

  4. JBC31187 says:

    You can tell Trump is a great businessman in how he chases away our allies.

  5. Nick never Nick says:

    NO FEAR, AMERICA, CANADA’S UPPING ITS DEFENSE BUDGET EVEN AS WE SPEAK

  6. Dilan Esper says:

    We should abandon our commitments to Russia’s neighbors. Those commitments never should have been made in the first place, as they improperly attempt to constrain Russia’s legitimate sphere of influence, and increase our risk of conflict with Russia.

    I don’t want one American to die to preserve the supposed right of Estonians not to have to maintain a good relationship with Russia.

    The reality is that NATO is a bluff anyway. If Russia did do something, we would never go to war over those small countries.

    • McAllen says:

      the supposed right of Estonians not to have to maintain a good relationship with Russia.

      Kind of like how Bush just wanted to make sure America and Iraq were good chums.

    • Little Chak says:

      “I don’t want one _____ to die to preserve the supposed right of Mexicans or Canadians not to have to maintain a good relationship with the United States.”

      They are within our “legitimate sphere of influence”, after all — at least if we susbscribe to the Putin/Trump view of international relations.

      Three cheers for “might makes right” foreign policy! Hip, hop, hoo-ray!

    • Vance Maverick says:

      Bethink thee that we too might have an interest in Estonia not being overrun.

    • Hallen says:

      I’ve never been super-stoked about allowing the Baltics into NATO; for one thing, there was their commitment to quasi-apartheid, but the big problem is that Russia is a nuclear power.

      I’m okay with one American dying to preserve Estonia. I’m probably “okay” with 100,000 Americans dying to preserve Estonia. But I’m not okay with a million Americans–or a hundred million Americans–dying to preserve Estonia.

      On the other hand, they foisted a madman upon us. So I guess the real question is, can we still destroy most of their second-strike capability with a surprise attack?

    • Brownian says:

      I don’t want one American to die to preserve the supposed right of Estonians not to have to maintain a good relationship with Russia.

      I can think of a few off the top of my head I’d happily toss in front of a Russian tank. To preserve something something Estonians? Sure, why not?

    • Ronan says:

      Dilan’s either a troll or an idiot on this topic. Either way, this nonsense probably shouldnt be encouraged. (imo)

      • Murc says:

        And when Ronan and I are on the same side when it comes to European politics, you gotta ask yourself, how far from the pack HAVE you strayed?

        • Ronan says:

          It’s the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of European politics threads.

        • LeeEsq says:

          I’m joining in as a third. Letting Russia do as it will is not a pro-peace policy.

          • NoMoreAltCenter says:

            The best way to secure peace is to keep our foot on their neck for the rest of time apparently

            • Murc says:

              We in no way have our foot on Russia’s neck.

            • Captain C says:

              Because not allowing Russia to invade their neighbors at will is putting a foot on their neck?

            • Ronan says:

              I think there’s a decent argument somewhere here that the US should have been more accommodationist to post Soviet Russia, that some parts of NATO expansion were counterproductive, and that the US has undermined its position internationally, particularly among other major powers, by intervening excessively, militarily since the end of the cold war.
              But dilan never makes these arguments. Your rhetoric about foots on necks doesn’t either. If dilan would make even a minimal good faith argument rather than just boilerplate about “spheres of influence” then.we might get somewhere.

      • Redwood Rhiadra says:

        He’s a standard leftist moron who thinks any form of American involvement with the rest of the world, whether through trade or through defense treaties, is “imperialism”.

    • NoMoreAltCenter says:

      “The reality is that NATO is a bluff anyway. If Russia did do something, we would never go to war over those small countries.”

      This probably won’t remain a thought experiment for very long

    • wengler says:

      If I listen closely, I can faintly hear the vast majority of the people in the Baltic republics telling you to go fuck yourself.

    • Murc says:

      Those commitments never should have been made in the first place, as they improperly attempt to constrain Russia’s legitimate sphere of influence,

      No, they don’t. At all. Russia is just as capable of exercising legitimate influence among countries it borders as it was before some of those countries joined NATO.

      All NATO does is constrain Russia’s illegitimate attempts to exercise influence. NATO is a defensive alliance. We’re under no obligation to do jack shit if a NATO member decides to unilaterally invade or attack Russia; our obligations and responsibilities only work the other way around.

      I don’t want one American to die to preserve the supposed right of Estonians not to have to maintain a good relationship with Russia.

      What about the right of the Estonians not to be invaded for no better reason than “we wants it,” which is Russia’s traditional conception of what their relationship with the Baltic states should be?

      • NoMoreAltCenter says:

        “What about the right of the Estonians not to be invaded for no better reason than “we wants it,” which is Russia’s traditional conception of what their relationship with the Baltic states should be?”

        Nobody who cares about the lives of American soldiers should want to go to war to defend the Baltic states, period.

        We get involved in overweening adventurism by imagining the whole world is a moral play that we have to act in. The 20th century shat on Russia hard enough without us having to do it too.

        • McAllen says:

          Where’s the line for when we should get involved? Poland? Germany? France?

          • NoMoreAltCenter says:

            I think…astonishingly…Germany and France and Poland would be more than capable of handling such a situation themselves.

            Russia ain’t the USSR man. Stop treating the world like a RISK board you can force woke values on to.

            • ajay says:

              So the argument is that the US shouldn’t go to war to defend Poland because Poland can manage fine by itself, and it shouldn’t go to war to defend Estonia because some Americans might get hurt.

              But, presumably, every time your own military lets your own country get attacked, you will continue to scream and howl for your allies to protect you, and to gibber incoherent abuse at the ones who fail to respond with anything but full commitment?

              (Per head of population, by the way, Estonia has lost more soldiers fighting your War on Terror than you have. YOU’RE WELCOME.)

              Just checking.

        • IM says:

          “Mourir pour Dantzig”, eh?

          You people never change.

        • Cheerfull says:

          The 20th Century shat on Russia? The poo was being flung both ways.

    • LeeEsq says:

      A big problem I have with people who think American should pursue a less interventionist foreign policy is that many of them seem to think that letting Russian run rampart or having other countries spill blood among themselves is somehow more keeping in the spirit of peace than American intervention.

      • Linnaeus says:

        I dunno, I think that while there are folks like these, they’re relatively few in number and they don’t exercise much influence. The folks closer to the other end, however…

    • Captain C says:

      improperly attempt to constrain Russia’s legitimate sphere of influence

      So imperialism is ok, maybe even ginger-peachy, as long as it’s Russian (or at least not American)?

  7. Davebo says:

    You might want to take a look at the go read link.

  8. Linnaeus says:

    I liked the piece, and I think it’s a serious argument against Trump’s recklessness under the guise of “burden sharing”, not to mention that he plans to increase military spending anyway.

    That said, I do have some discomfort with US military supremacy, one reason for that being that while it means that potential rivals are dependent on the US, it also means that there are fewer restraints on US abuses of that power. Which is not to say that China or Russia would be any better (they wouldn’t), but that the US hasn’t always acted as a benign force. That means that if the US is going to carry a disproportionate burden of ensuring security worldwide, then there is a commensurate responsibility to exercise proper restraint.

    • JBC31187 says:

      I do have some discomfort with US military supremacy, one reason for that being that while it means that potential rivals are dependent on the US, it also means that there are fewer restraints on US abuses of that power.

      Yeah, right now I would love if Europe was able to match America military-wise.

      • dnexon says:

        I want more US restraint.

        I’m also very worried about security dilemmas that would follow from European decoupling from the US.

        But a major reason we wrote this was to highlight how Trump’s dispositions are self-defeating on *their own terms*. That is, he’s about American strength and greatness, but he seems incapable of understanding how that’s generated in ways other than having a big economy.

        • JBC31187 says:

          Absolutely. Sometimes I despair that the Republicans have such shit values. Then I weep over how dumb they are. The village bullies are shitting in the communal well that they drink out of.

  9. jam says:

    The final link, with text “Go read, if so inclined.” is broken.

  10. NoMoreAltCenter says:

    Trump isn’t smart enough to realize that Europe and Japan being militarily weak is a feature and not a bug from the perspective of US imperialism

  11. Linnaeus says:

    This would probably as good a time as any to re-read my Chalmers Johnson Blowback “trilogy”.

  12. Davebo says:

    If NATO were truly a combined defense or Europe group I would hope they would coordinate defense assets to make the most of the dollars spent.

    Sweden makes some fine tactical aircraft. Germany could certainly produce some fantastic armored vehicles.

    Placing a 2% per GDP spending expectation may be wrong. Maybe we should be trying to do a more specific force allocation and let each country contribute in ways best suited to their abilities.

    • ajay says:

      If NATO were truly a combined defense or Europe group I would hope they would coordinate defense assets to make the most of the dollars spent.

      Sweden makes some fine tactical aircraft.

      I will regard this suggestion with the level of respect I normally deliver to people who hold forth about NATO without knowing that Sweden isn’t in it.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.