There in a way has been a reason why NATO expenditures have been decreasing for years with recent exceptions, here and there. Many NATO member country leaders who run around espousing serious military expenditure increases do not believe enough in it and thus, do not want to put their government’s money where their mouth is. The US Congress has effectively been highly tolerant of it while also loudly talking up their disgust with “deadbeat” NATO members.
It may be these low paying NATO members are aware of this. That they also have so much rising discontent at home of unemployment, underemployment and social programme cuts, so putting money into the military does not seem so attractive.
Besides, neocons like US Senator McCain know that high military spending by the US in NATO helps the US to call the shots more on Europe’s defence policies and make the continent oriented to US values and security views. How wonderful for the US taxpayer and European self-determination. This is not what Presudent Trump wants, surely.
But by Trump calling many NATO members out publicly on not spending enough, he is actually going to stress out particularly the weaker economies of NATO members, which feel they can ill afford significant added layouts on the military.
Just look at Greece, which can barely get enough money together to pay off its loans or other Mediterranean countries or many eastern European ones, including the Baltic countries so fearful of Russia.
It is likely Trump knows this so by pushing these countries to put billions more into their militaries, he is aware that those establishments there will face huge blowback particularly by the ever rising left populist movements or what I call, their “Bernie Sanders” wings.
Then there are right wing populists who have overall a low priority or little interest in keeping NATO happy, especially regarding taking a hostile stand towards Russia.
The result will be more risk for internal political turmoil and polarization in many parts of continental Europe if Trump fully pushes hard his NATO vision.
Too many NATO countries’ internal politics are jammed with social programme disintegration, high deficits and debt, all while there are movements to lower taxes. It is just easier, even despite the anti-US bellyaching, to keep the NATO status quo.
Either Trump will have to back away from pushing these countries too hard or face the possibility also of increasing anti-Americanism by the strong anti-establishment groups in Europe who want less of NATO, period.
Hence, even with false flags generated by pro NATO elements if one likes conspiratorial theory, I do not see NATO changing that much including being all that much more efficient. So either the US will back off on pay delinquent members or Trump will try to get them kicked out.
Yet I do not think he can get these membership payment “delinquents” to leave. He can in retaliation though try to reduce NATO contributions from the US. But Congress because of the military lobby and anti-Putin hysteria in it, will likely wish to make few or no amendments to NATO budgetary commitments. Trump’s cabinet members will likely not budge on that matter.
In essence, NATO may very well will continue to crumble but at the slow pace. Congress will also not likely want to seriously reduce sanctions, which would would embolden Putin on the asymmetric front if not beyond from their view.
Meanwhile. Trump may try to to use some offsetting executive orders to lessen the damage of US sanctions on Russia while certain European governments do the same. On this he might have more success than putting more muscle on NATO countries in payment “arrears”.
Thus, expect for more mush and no breakthroughs this year on real NATO reform and not so much on Russia. After Trump uses the blogosphere to denounce further Washington insiders from undermining his attempts at rapprochement with Russia, watch out.
Along with intransigence with NATO countries to spend much more or delay, he may roll back a lot of Pentagon projects and pushing for cost savings that do not directly impact the soldier in the field or veterans or strategically serious compromise the US national security.
His populist rhetoric of why the US should pay the full price so much for rich problrmatic projects like the F35 while much of Europe does added little. This will strengthen his base and make Senator McCain, Senate Armed Services Chairman and the other key neocons look mad hawkish.
This lack of full momentum for commitment to costly NATO programmes could more easily occur as Europe becomes less belligerent to Russia and vice versa, making the US Congress as the last or near last standout major western legislature against Russia.
This effort to get more of Congress on side against “cheat NATO members will happen all during massive hyped hysteria against Russia by mainstream media and Senate leaders like John McCain who loathe Trump. If they continue their hysterical views, Europe here too at the grass roots will also turn against America as its own populist movements evolve pushing better relations with Moscow.
However, Trump because of his counter position on Russia will look not so bad than people like McCain except on possibly his ideas on more military expenditures. Thus European populists will still have a certain gravity towards Trump over the US Congress.
Trump should get on the bully-pulpit after Obamacare is changed and really take it to people like McCain and Senator Graham and other refuseniks to peace with Russia. That is especialky if the Trump administration comes up with an agreement with Putin that is mutually beneficial.
Hence next “strategic enemy” will not be Russia for Trump. It likely will be much of Congress on matters of foreign policy and out of control military expenditures boondoggles for certain senators and congressmen districts and supporters.
Just the boycotts by a large part of Democratic party reps of the Trump inauguration show that there will be political “blood” from that institution that neo cons can join up with strategically.
Trump needs to get ready for that and strike a massuve blow at the right time of his choosing against these obstructive neo-con and liberal interventionist Congressional forces against a more rational and modern NATO policy including improved relations with Russia.
More of Europe will appreciate his shifts which may eventually lead to serious improvements snd cost efficiencies in NATO and for the US taxpayer.