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The Dangers of Trump’s Approach to Burden Sharing

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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.

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