Nato summit: should Europe pay up?

Shortly before the Nato summit in Brussels begins US President Donald Trump has once again demanded that the Europeans increase their military spending. Some commentators take the view that Trump's criticism is basically justified. Others call for a more modern definition of defence policy that goes beyond boosting defence budgets.

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Deutsche Welle (RO) /

Eastern Europeans understand Trump's demand

The Western European countries still believe that being protected by Nato is something they can take for granted, journalist Horațiu Pepine of the Romanian service of German broadcaster Deutsche Welle comments:

“This view stems from the time straight after the Second World War when America's engagement could still be interpreted as a policy aimed at preserving civilisation and a certain brand of humanity. Western Europe profited from this perspective for decades, until it believed it no longer needed to do any more. US President Trump is right, no matter how unpleasant this may be for Western political leaders. As expected, it was above all the Eastern Europeans who understood this message first: Poland, Romania and Estonia [are among those states that fulfil the two-percent target].”

La Stampa (IT) /

Stop relying on the US Cavalry

Trump's criticism that Europe's defence spending is too low is justified, writes La Stampa's Brussels correspondent Stefano Stefanini:

“Europe lives on a security pension guaranteed by the US. This is an untenable paradigm at a time when the US has to engage militarily on other front lines, from the Middle East to the Pacific. The 'peace dividend' from the time after the Cold War has evaporated. It's hard to explain, let alone justify, the fact that countries like Germany, Italy or the Netherlands are not willing to spend the sums necessary for credible defence capabilities. Not because Trump is brutally demanding this, but because Europe needs to be able to guarantee its own security. In a world of growing threats, Europe should stop relying on the US Cavalry.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Trump twisting the knife in the wound

The US president's less than gentle way of dealing with his Nato partners also has a positive side, Le Temps notes:

“Trump is forcing the Nato states to ask unpleasant questions. First of all regarding threats, particularly as regards terrorism, Russia, China and cyberattacks. And also regarding a more independent European defence, industrial partnerships and joint programmes for weapons technology. ... The deceitful accusations Trump is known for remind us what Nato really is, despite its undeniable contribution to peace on the European continent since 1945: an alliance of unequal partners with a boss in Washington, whose priorities depend on who happens to be occupying the White House and what his industry happens to need.”

Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) /

Time for a modern defence policy

A fundamentally new approach in defence policy is what is needed, taz stresses:

“It would be a correct step to break out of the prison of the 2-percent target. A modern defence policy is lacking more than the tanks and fighter jets for the financing of which two percent of the GDP of each member country is used. The US itself is just as remiss in fulfilling its financial obligations to organisations like the UN. A modern defence policy would fulfil what is being called for so vehemently in the migration debate. It would mean investing money in those places from which war, persecution or destitution are causing people to flee. In view of the migration flows, the deaths in the Mediterranean and the rise of the far right it's time for a modern definition of defence policy.”

Lietuvos žinios (LT) /

Summit decisive for security in Europe

Lietuvos žinios finds Trump's statements very worrying:

“The West was shocked when during the G7 summit Trump described Crimea as part of Russia and called for Russia to be allowed back into the club. Now we are seeing articles in which doubts are voiced about whether it's still worthwhile economically to offer Europe - including the Baltic states - military protection and calling for no more US soldiers to be sent here. If these proposals are put into practice Nato will be left in ruins. Since 2004, when Lithuania joined the EU and Nato, there have hardly been any days more important for the security of our country. Will Nato present itself as strong or internally weakened at the summit? How will the US behave? Putin's future policy in our region may depend on this.”

The New York Times (US) /

Trump doing Putin's dirty work

The Republicans are simply looking on impassively as the US president undermines the Western alliance, The New York Times rails:

“Mr. Trump is burning up all the credit the United States has accrued with our allies across decades by attacking the basis of this alliance, if not the very idea of any alliance - thus, deliberately or not, doing the bidding of Mr. Putin in his quest to divide the West. ...Given the legacy of Republican support for national security and democratic allies, one might expect that Republican congressional leaders would speak up. But, cowering before Mr. Trump, they have been virtually silent as he has undermined America's alliances.”

Právo (CZ) /

Germany does pull its financial weight

Trump should be careful not to go too far with his demands and threats, Právo warns:

“That goes for example for the speculation that Trump is considering withdrawing 35,000 soldiers from Germany because they're too expensive and Germany is ignoring the situation. The US always had its own reasons for maintaining a military presence in Europe and Germany, including supporting US operations in the Middle East, for instance with the Ramstein air base or the military hospital complex in Landstuhl. Berlin grants it certain advantages here because - according to an analysis by [US think-tank] Rand Corporation - it covers around a third of the Pentagon's costs for running these facilities.”

Les Echos (FR) /

Russia as the raison d'être

Les Echos sees Nato's very existence called into question:

“It's true that the Americans have almost always regarded multilateral organisations (Nato, the UN) as toolboxes that are useful when they really need them. But during the summit in Brussels on July 11 and 12 it will be difficult to avoid posing an existential question regarding Nato. Can the organisation survive? The Warsaw Pact, which allied the Soviet Union with the former socialist states of Central and Eastern Europe, disappeared in 1991. Today Nato owes its survival to Russian aggression. But for how much longer?”

Expresso (PT) /

This is no longer about freedom and democracy

Nato's underlying concept has to change, foreign policy expert Miguel Monjardino writes in Expresso:

“The Atlantic Alliance as we know it from the past decades is nearing its end. ... One major problem is that the European allies have remained 'conceptional prisoners' of the period from 1945 - 1989 and can't imagine any other future. ... Trump represents a country that believes Washington pays far too much for the Alliance's upkeep. And many Americans - on the left and on the right - agree with him. What interests the White House and the US Congress today isn't idle talk about 'values', 'freedom' and 'democracy', but how ready - and equipped - for deployment Europe's armed forces are.”

Diena (LV) /

Trump always represents a threat

Diena explains why Nato is worried in the run-up to the summit:

“It's clear that the growing confrontation between the Trump administration and Europe will influence cooperation within the North Atlantic Alliance. After all, no one has forgotten the US president's negative attitude to Nato at the start of his mandate. Even if this attitude changed officially over the first year of his presidency, this only happened as a result of domestic considerations. That's why people now are justifiably concerned that Trump will return to his original stance at the first opportunity.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

An alliance within the alliance is needed

The Süddeutsche Zeitung sees the military alliance as a serious threat and calls for Europe to assume greater responsibility:

“Nato will only survive Trump's presidency if something like an alliance within the alliance is formed between the still-strong Nato lobby in the US and the Europeans and Canadians. The crucial question will be whether enough people come together to defend the defence alliance. ... The Europeans must now assume a far larger portion of the responsibility, not to please the American president but in order to confront him with some degree of self-confidence. Those who really want to protect Europe must save Nato.”

Berlingske (DK) /

Germany must do more militarily

US President Trump has sharply criticised Germany for failing to fulfil its financial obligations. Berlingske expresses understanding for this criticism:

“Germany is the weakest link in Nato even though it's the strongest nation in the EU economically. The old mantra that Nato was established to keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down is no longer valid. The Europeans need a Germany that can carry its share of the burden if Europe is under serious threat. Not like today's Germany, which is very eager to cooperate on EU security and defence policy but where the will to prove its mettle in real military operations is unlikely to be put to the test. Because it's Nato that goes to war. And here Germany must pull its weight.”