Trump has a point on Europe abdicating responsibilities

The Trump administration does appear to be in a state of chaos over foreign policy, but the Americans are absolutely right that Europe has been abdicating its international obligations for years. We should remember our motes and beams

Passing the parcel on defence spending
the commentator
On 18 February 2017 12:46

The Munich Security Conference, more a summit for world leaders to grandstand in than a genuine forum for the exchange of ideas, is one of the diplomatic highlights of the year. This weekend it is providing the first big opportunity for the Trump administration to relay some important messages to European allies.

Vice President Mike Pence has already provoked controversy in European media by his uncompromising message at Munich that European countries must do more to pay their fair share of the defence burden and pull their weight, most particularly in terms of the NATO recommendation for member states to spend two percent of gross domestic product on defence.

“As of this moment, the US and only four other Nato members meet that basic standard,” he said. The four countries apart from the US are Britain, Poland, Greece, and Estonia.

The Guardian, in a frowning headline -- frowning at Pence for stating some uncomfortable truths rather than European nations such as Germany for their abysmal track record -- said: "Mike Pence widens US rift with Europe over NATO defence spending".

Hold on a moment. We know that the Trump administration is all at sixes and sevens right now. The White House urgently needs to take some sanity pills on foreign policy, and much else. But that doesn't mean everything coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is crazy.

Look at the stats. While the United States spends 3.6 percent of its GDP on defence (with Britain on 2.2 percent) Germany only coughs up 1.2 percent. For France, the figure is 1.8 percent. For Italy it is 1.1 percent. Even bankrupt Greece spends 2.4 percent.

True, since NATO's summit in Wales a couple of years ago there has been a pledge for the allies to improve the situation over the next decade. But it's not certain that will happen.

The new American administration is right on this one. Europe should do much more. Before we hear any further complaints -- many of them justified incidentally -- about Donald Trump's unsteady hand on US foreign policy, let us recall those wise old words from St Matthew:

"Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."

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