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A Wake Up Call
The Trump Card in the EU Defense Debate

The debate over the EU’s global security role is heating up after the U.S. election, as Germany’s Defense Minister makes the case for higher defense spending and enhanced EU security cooperation. FT reports:

Germany’s defence minister has called for a bigger EU global security role and higher defence spending amid concerns that Donald Trump could reduce US engagement in international security.

“Europe needs a common political will for greater relevance in security policy,” said Ursula von der Leyen, a key ally of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. 

Writing in the Rheinische Post on Thursday, the minister played down fears about Mr Trump’s criticisms of Germany and the EU and his pledges to retreat from the role of “the policeman of the world”. She said the US remained Nato’s most important pillar and said Germany must “build bridges” to Mr Trump.

But Ms von der Leyen acknowledged the US had frequently called for European Nato members to carry a “bigger share of the burden” of military spending. “This demand remains unchanged after the election,” she said.

Europe’s defense debate is not a new one. As we discussed in September, proposals for a joint European military headquarters and enhanced military cooperation have long been pushed by France. As the EU’s largest military, France would exert significant influence over a shared EU defense organization. Such an arrangement would help France’s arms industry, allow for budgetary relief and arguably improve its standing in the EU vis-à-vis Germany. Lately, Germany has been a strong advocate for EU security cooperation as well, issuing white papers about a future EU army and pushing for closer military ties post-Brexit.

Now, it seems that Berlin is playing the Trump card in arguing that the EU needs to step up its military game. In addition to the Defense Minister’s op-ed, the head of the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, Norbert Röttgen, said this week, “It is inevitable Europe and Germany will have to bear a much bigger share of international responsibility…this is a wake-up call.”

In any case, such remarks are not likely to move the needle, as the UK has promised to oppose enhanced EU defense proposals even as it negotiates its exit, and many member states are skeptical given the existence of NATO. Still, it is notable that in this period of uncertainty before a Trump administration, some Europeans see a reason to batten down the hatches at home.

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  • Frank Natoli

    concerns that Donald Trump could reduce US engagement in international security.
    Let’s see. BHO gives Iran, the people who enthusiastically promise to finish what Hitler started, the green light to continue extracting the one component of a nuclear weapon that you cannot buy via Amazon, i.e., fissile, bomb grade, U-235, and that did not qualify as “reducing US engagement in international security”?
    And BHO did everything possible to destabilize Syria, amazingly providing an entry for both Putin and ISIS into the region, letting loose a tidal wave of refugees into Europe, and that did not qualify as “reducing US engagement in international security”?
    How come there were never any TAI articles mentioning the “Obama card”?

  • Andrew Allison

    NATO, a boondoggler’s boondoggle, spends four times as much as the Chinese and seven times as much as Russia on defense, and yet is a toothless tiger. The rot is so pervasive that euthanasia is the only sensible course.

  • FluffyFooFoo

    Huzzah for Trump!

    • ljgude

      Ah, yes. Being Trumped in the morning wonderfully concentrates the mind!

      • f1b0nacc1

        Dr. Johnson was right

  • vb

    I’s not just sharing financial responsibility. It’s alsö about sharing moral responsibility. Too many in Europe, especially Germany, want to blame America for every hard decision it has had to make. It’s about criticizing Bush for sending a carrier to Indonesia after the tsunami, while Germans collected last year’s ski sweaters to send to people who had no water or food.

    • FluffyFooFoo

      This is very true too. Or doing nothing about genocide in Rwanda and then lauding itself as good people for prosecuting nuns long after the fact at the Hague. The disconnect from reality in the European political classes is so strong.

    • Fat_Man

      This very important. Europeans must take the lead in setting policies to keep Europe safe, especially from Russian aggression. Of course they must stump the money. The US should cooperate with Europe in executing those policies. But they have to be out in front.

      Europeans get to complain about American leadership when they begin to show some leadership themselves.

  • FriendlyGoat

    It is not possible for Europe to defend against anything agreed otherwise by Trump and Russia. The Trump defense of Europe more probably to decide along with Putin whatever of Europe might be “more reasonably” aligned with Russia and to support it in a “deal” for the sake of peace in a multi-polar world. Putin’s ambitions and those of the old USSR are different, after all, in their scope. On defending against Islam—-same strategy from Trump I suspect—–deals with Russia. I don’t think by any stretch that we elected the spirit expressed by John McCain when he said “we are all Georgians now”. My sense of this is that Trump will prefer “deals” with Russia to “deals” with NATO.

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