Mattis to NATO Allies: Pay Your Fair Share

 

Defense Secretary James Mattis met in Brussels Wednesday with the defense ministers of our NATO allies. His message was characteristically honest and blunt:

“I owe it to you all to give you clarity on the political reality in the United States and to state the fair demand from my country’s people in concrete terms,” Mattis said. “America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to the alliance, each of your capitals needs to show its support for our common defense.”

…Mattis, a retired Marine general, recalled Wednesday that when he was NATO’s supreme allied commander of transformation from November 2007 to September 2009, he watched as then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned NATO nations that Congress and the American people “would lose their patience for carrying a disproportionate burden” of the defense of allies.

That impatience, Mattis said, is now a “governmental reality.”

“No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defense of western values,” Mattis said. “Americans cannot care more for your children’s security than you do. Disregard for military readiness demonstrates a lack of respect for ourselves, for the alliance and for the freedoms we inherited, which are now clearly threatened.”

Way to go, Mad Dog.

NATO countries have pledged to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense. Of the 28 member nations, only five have accomplished this modest goal: Estonia, Greece, Poland, the UK, and the US. That leaves 23 nations leaning on American largesse for their preservation.

Source: Defense One.

Canada only spends 0.99 percent of it’s GDP on defense; Belgium, Hungary, Spain, and tiny Luxembourg are also in the less-than-1-percent club. If even cash-strapped Greece can exceed the goal, is there any reason these first-world countries can’t take care of their own defense? But instead of raising their spending closer to the target, nine nations actually reduced their military budgets between 2014 and 2015.

President Trump has received a lot of flak for criticizing this lopsided financial arrangement, perhaps more for his style than the substance behind it. But I can’t see how anyone can criticize Mattis’s clear-eyed assessment of the situation. It’s the same point Trump has been making, but delivered in the general’s laconic style.

The majority of NATO members are falling down on the job and have been for years. With Russia, China, Iran, and ISIS on the prowl, they have no excuse not to pay their promised share.

There are 81 comments.

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  1. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    Clear, honest, forthright.  Refreshing, isn’t it?

    • #1
  2. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    I know as a conservative I was quite disgusted by Stephen Harper a conservative PM’s use of the capital budgets of the RCN (Navy) as a way to balance our budget.

    • #2
  3. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Nice to see someone on the world stage who speaks in complete, correct, diagrammable sentences whose meaning should be clear and unambiguous to everyone hearing them.  Refreshing, indeed.

    • #3
  4. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: If even cash-strapped Greece can exceed the goal, is there any reason these first-world countries can’t take care of their own defense?

    Cash-strapped Greece exceeds the goal because of their worries about the territorial ambitions of NATO members Turkey and Albania. There is nothing like the prospect of being hanged to clarify one’s thinking. I suspect Poland and Estonia similarly have their thinking clarified.

    Seawriter

    • #4
  5. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: If even cash-strapped Greece can exceed the goal, is there any reason these first-world countries can’t take care of their own defense?

    Cash-strapped Greece exceeds the goal because of their worries about the territorial ambitions of NATO members Turkey and Albania. There is nothing like the prospect of being hanged to clarify one’s thinking. I suspect Poland and Estonia similarly have their thinking clarified.

    Seawriter

    Very true but that does not excuse those who prefer to have the Ugly Americans pick up their defense tab. I’ve never been comfortable with Trump’s style but on this issue I’m in complete agreement with his purpose. We’re in this fight together, now put your shoulder to the wheel so we can get this wagon out of the ditch, allies.

    • #5
  6. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    That sounds a bit like his infamous:

    “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f*** with me, I’ll kill you all.”

    • #6
  7. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    I linked to a very relevant article (As Trump re-evaluates NATO, NATO must rethink Russia) in a post on the Member Feed. It’s based on interviews with Reagan’s last Ambassador to the USSR and Germany’s former Ambassador to NATO.

    • #7
  8. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    So is this speech a prelude to Europe stepping up, or NATO withering?

    • #8
  9. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    So, he was speaking to these people?

    (Defense ministers of Albania, Netherland, Germany, Norway and Italy)

    Well, I feel safer.

    • #9
  10. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    iWe (View Comment):
    So is this speech a prelude to Europe stepping up, or NATO withering?

    With so many other things changing in the world I see this as the pertinent question of the moment.

    • #10
  11. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Oo la la. J’apologies, Meester Mattiz. Weez makin’ white flags az fast az We can.

    Le Drian.

    • #11
  12. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Without consequences for failing to meet the terms, why expect their behavior to change? Mattis didn’t threaten anything. He will be ignored.

    “[Y]our nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to the alliance” is too vague to be effective.

    What are the options between flatly stating “We won’t protect deadbeats” and the norm of ignoring the terms?

    • #12
  13. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    Mattis comes across articulate, firm and fair.   I didn’t remember what that sounded like.

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    It’s about time! Go General Mattis! I think we’re going to see his impact on foreign relations in other ways, too, subtle and obvious and I welcome it.

    • #14
  15. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    The King Prawn (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):
    So is this speech a prelude to Europe stepping up, or NATO withering?

    With so many other things changing in the world I see this as the pertinent question of the moment.

    That is for the Europeans to decide.    Mattis is abundantly clear.     And like Trump on trade, reciprocity is the order of the day.

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Without consequences for failing to meet the terms, why expect their behavior to change? Mattis didn’t threaten anything. He will be ignored.

    “[Y]our nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to the alliance” is too vague to be effective.

    What are the options between flatly stating “We won’t protect deadbeats” and the norm of ignoring the terms?

    Maybe we can hope for a stronger and clearer follow-up?

    • #16
  17. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Jon,

    Less is more if it’s General Mattis delivering the speech. Just excellent.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #17
  18. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    iWe (View Comment):
    So is this speech a prelude to Europe stepping up, or NATO withering?

    That depends on them.

    • #18
  19. Paul-FB Member
    Paul-FB
    @PaulFB

    The first step has been taken.  Will a NATO step follow?

    • #19
  20. Sweezle Member
    Sweezle
    @Sweezle

    I’m thrilled! This has been one of my beefs about NATO for a long time. It matters to me.

    • #20
  21. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    For me, its not raw investment, but ability to field a credible expeditionary force that goes along with that spending.  Anybody can turn a dial and buy government cheese for instance to show budget, build palaces for barracks, etc.  Its another thing to have a force that can deploy and put rounds on target.

    2nd.  NATO hasn’t done the necessary relationship building with the parts of america that stuff salad suits.  At least through the funhouse mirror of crazy that is the international mainstream media, the people who are asking a lot of a small part of america (white working class is over represented in the parts of the armed forces that put lead into bad guys) are held in widespread contempt.  This is not how you convince Americans to sign up for wars in europe.  Russia seems to actually like the Americans who do the dying.  This is bad for Europe.  They need to become full partners in the alliance and do some relationship building with the people whose kids are likely to stuff the salad suits.

    The later is probably more important than the former.  The pawns on the chessboard can in fact give the player the finger and march off the board.  Alliances between foreign policy bureaucrats probably don’t mean much anymore.  There needs to be credible affection between the people’s and not just political puffery.

    • #21
  22. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Don’t be surprised if NATO goes “See ya, Yankees”. There’s strong sentiment in Brussels to create a European Army, and they’ve been asking “If we make an EU Army, what would we need NATO for?”; since Brexit, the EU Army project doubles as a political solution as well as a military one. They see an EU Army as glue to repair the European Union post Brexit, and as a way to prevent any further divorces. Now you’re not just locked in to their currency and trade and judicial policies, but your defense depends on Brussels with this project as well. I don’t think the European peoples will necessarily be thrilled by the prospect, but Brussels has demonstrated again and again that they don’t care what average people think anyway. The Eurocrats want it, and the Eurocrats may well get it. They’d love to be able to tell Donald Trump and those nasty Americans to sod off as a pretext to creating one more layer in their “ever closer union”.

    • #22
  23. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Guruforhire (View Comment):
    For me, its not raw investment, but ability to field a credible expeditionary force that goes along with that spending

    True but this is a good start. And when in doubt, send the Marines.

    • #23
  24. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    iWe (View Comment):
    So is this speech a prelude to Europe stepping up, or NATO withering?

    Probably the latter. The political realities in Europe are just as much at issue here as those in the US.

    • #24
  25. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Without consequences for failing to meet the terms, why expect their behavior to change? Mattis didn’t threaten anything. He will be ignored.

    “[Y]our nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to the alliance” is too vague to be effective.

    What are the options between flatly stating “We won’t protect deadbeats” and the norm of ignoring the terms?

    Whether they respond by stepping up depends on two things.
    1. How serious was Mattis (and President Trump)
    2. How good are his listeners at determining how serious they are.

    Before Andy Jackson was President there was a trouble maker out in the ‘sticks’ who had chased authorities away more than once. General Jackson went to see the man and brought him in without incident. When the man was asked why he obeyed the General he reportedly said, “He had shoot in his eye.”

    It’s hard to bluff unless one is fully willing to follow through. Not so hard if one is willing. Not too hard for people with good sense to tell the difference.

    • #25
  26. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Douglas (View Comment):
    Don’t be surprised if NATO goes “See ya, Yankees”. There’s strong sentiment in Brussels to create a European Army, and they’ve been asking “If we make an EU Army, what would we need NATO for?”; since Brexit, the EU Army project doubles as a political solution as well as a military one. They see an EU Army as glue to repair the European Union post Brexit, and as a way to prevent any further divorces. Now you’re not just locked in to their currency and trade and judicial policies, but your defense depends on Brussels with this project as well. I don’t think the European peoples will necessarily be thrilled by the prospect, but Brussels has demonstrated again and again that they don’t care what average people think anyway. The Eurocrats want it, and the Eurocrats may well get it. They’d love to be able to tell Donald Trump and those nasty Americans to sod off as a pretext to creating one more layer in their “ever closer union”.

    I’m sure an army formed of the people millennial hipsters pattern themselves after will be an awe inspiring force. /sarc

    • #26
  27. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    Douglas (View Comment):

    Russia and the Middle East are primarily Europe’s problems. If they find enough backbone to band together to meet those problems, militarily if necessary, that’s a good thing. The US can help and probably should but it’s high time we stopped being their primary defense. Their economy was in ruins right after WWII but has been strong now for decades. They are free-riding on our largess and we are deep in debt. So if they come up with some way to address the problems in their own neighborhood that will be good for us as well as good for them. A stronger EU will probably not be good for liberty in Europe but again that’s their problem, best handled by them. There are ways to deal with all these problems without it leading to complete disaster. It’s probably time for them grow a little. The US piggybank is pretty thin.

    • #27
  28. dittoheadadt Inactive
    dittoheadadt
    @dittoheadadt

    What th-???

    It’s time for Trump to resign.

    • #28
  29. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Douglas (View Comment):
    Don’t be surprised if NATO goes “See ya, Yankees”. There’s strong sentiment in Brussels to create a European Army, and they’ve been asking “If we make an EU Army, what would we need NATO for?”

    To actually have a membership that can, oh, fight, as opposed to being a gigantic social welfare program.

    • #29
  30. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Douglas (View Comment):
    Don’t be surprised if NATO goes “See ya, Yankees”. There’s strong sentiment in Brussels to create a European Army, and they’ve been asking “If we make an EU Army, what would we need NATO for?”

    To actually have a membership that can, oh, fight, as opposed to being a gigantic social welfare program.

    With the UK out of the EU, that would leave France as the keeper of the EU nuclear deterrent.

    For most of the Cold War, France’s de facto policy was to let the US and West Germany die fighting the Russians in the eastern half of West Germany and then drop nukes on the Russians once they reach the western half.

    That hardly makes France a promising ally.

    • #30

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