July 6, 2018

`We are the schmucks’ thundered President Donald Trump.   The object of Trump’s wrath at his ‘Make America Great Again’ rally in Great Falls, Montana was the craven, stingy European members of NATO, only 16 of 22 members are on budget for their US-commanded military spending.  Trump wants them to spend much more. 

Trump and his fellow neocons want NATO to serve as a sort of US foreign legion in Third World wars in Africa and Asia.  NATO was formed as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to defend western Europe, not to fight in Afghanistan and who knows where else?

Equally bad, according to Trump, is that the US runs a whopping trade deficit with the European Union which is busy shipping high-end cars and fine wines to the US.  The wicked foreigners don’t buy enough American bourbon, corn and terribly abused pigs.

Trump is quite right that America’s NATO allies, particularly Germany and Canada, don’t spend enough on defense.  Germany is reported to have less than twenty operational tanks. Canada’s armed forces appear to be smaller than the New York City police department.

But the Europeans ask, ‘defense against whom?’   The Soviet Union was a huge threat back in the Cold War when the mighty Red Army had 55,000 tanks pointed West.  Today, Russia’s land and naval power has evaporated.  Russia has perhaps 5,500 main battle tanks in active service and a similar number in storage, a far cry from its armored juggernaut of the Cold War. 

More important, Russia’s military budget for 2018 was only $61 billion, actually down 17% from last year.  That’s 4.3% of GDP.  Russia is facing hard economic times.  Russia has slipped to third place in military spending after the US, China and Saudi Arabia.   The US and its wealthy allies account for two thirds of world military spending.  In fact, the US total military budget (including for nuclear weapons and foreign wars) is about $1 trillion, 50% of total US government discretionary spending.

In addition, Russia must defend a vast territory from the Baltic to the Pacific.  The US is fortunate in having Mexico and Canada as neighbors.  Russia has North Korea, China, India, the Mideast and NATO to watch.  As with its naval forces, Russia’s armies are too far apart to lend one another mutual support. Two vulnerable rail lines are Russia’s main land link between European Russia and its Pacific Far East.

Trump’s supplemental military budget boost this year of $54 billion is almost as large as Russia’s entire 2018 military budget.  As for Trump’s claim that Europe is not paying its fair share of NATO expenses, note that that Britain and France combined together spend more on their military forces than Russia.

In Europe, it’s hard to find many people who still consider Russia a serious threat except for some tipsy Danes, right wing Swedes, and assorted Russophobic East Europeans.  The main fear of Russia seems concentrated in the minds of American neoconservatives, media, and rural Trump supporters, all victims of the bizarre anti-Russian hysteria that has gripped the US.

Equally important, most civilians don’t understand that neither US and NATO forces nor Russia’s military are in any shape to fight war that lasts more than a few days.  Both sides lack munitions, spare parts, lubricants, and battlefield equipment.  The overworked US Air Force, busy plastering Muslim nations, has actually run low on bombs.  US industry can’t seem to keep up supplies. There has even been talk of buying explosives from China!

These essentials of war have been seriously neglected in favor of buying fancy weapons. But such weapons need spares, electronics, fuel depots, missiles and thousands of essential parts.  As former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld observed, ‘you go to war with what you have.’  Neither side has enough.  A war would likely peter out in days after supplies were exhausted.  Besides, no side can afford to replace $100 million jet fighters or $5 million apiece tanks after a war, however brief.      

President Trump has learned about war from Fox TV. Europeans have learned from real experience and don’t want any more. 

Copyright  Eric S. Margolis 2018




This post is in: NATO


  1. What Trump really wants is for the Europeans to pay some form of “Protection Money”: the United States is heavily dependent on its “Military Industrial Complex” as a source of economic growth (GDP) which also supports its technological leadership in applied scientific research sector.

    Yet, ever since the collapse of the Bretton Woods Monetary Agreement in 1971, America’s Military Industrial Complex is being funded by FIAT $ money that the U.S is creating out of the thin air, the value of which is being heavily supported by the U.S Allies and Commercial Trading partners, e.g. Germany, Japan, U.K. France, Canada, but also China, Russia, Brazil, India, and some 100 other countries around the world whom use the US $ Dollar as the “Reserve and Transactional Currency”, and that is the real contribution that allies make to the U.S economy to which American high standard of living heavily depends on.

    But the Right Wing of the Republican party is aiming to lower the military expenses through outsourcing of the army‘s staffing needs, so, they have been lobbying the government to use more “Global Mercenary Services” instead of the regular military staff; as they actually did in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Blackwater USA, a US security firm has provided the U.S Government with security services for its diplomatic missions in Kabul and Baghdad – Blackwater’s former CEO and founder, Mr. Erik Prince is brother of Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education Secretary and one of top $$$ donor to the Republican party. Erik Prince and her sister Betsy DeVos along with many right wing Republicans are in favour of hiring Mercenaries – Global Outsourcing of the US Army Services to lowest international bidders.

    With such a mindset prevailing in Washington amongst the right wing of the Republican party and some Democrats; there should be no surprises about Trump’s wanting to invoice the Europeans and Japanese for the security services they receive from the USA – in other words, some form of “Protection Money” for the security services rendered.

  2. NATO is a remnant of the Cold War, and, a mouthpiece for American policy. It’s time to disband and this is an excellent opportunity to do so. Canada should withdraw immediately.


  3. Mike Smith says:

    It seems to me that all the major problems faced by NATO in recent years has its origins in US foreign policy…. Ukraine was by US funding of opposition parties and actively encouraging the coup that followed. The refugee crisis was/is largely people fleeing from areas that the US has either intervened in or occupied…. Turkey, as the previous article is being pushed away. Perhaps Europe needs to stand up against US policy… if the trade carrots go away, what is to stop them from speaking their minds? It also seems to me any action Putin is being condemned for has / is being done by the US as normal practice elsewhere.

  4. Steve_M. says:

    Excellent analysis. I get the feeling that Trump’s demands for the other NATO countries to sharply raise their military spending might be partially tied to the hope that the higher outlays would result in more purchases from US armaments manufacturers. A former US ambassador to Canada, the late Paul Cellucci, openly called for Canada to spend more on its military and recommended that Canada buy armaments from US manufacturers, thus making himself a self-appointed shill for those companies. Maybe Trump sees himself as a shill for the same firms. As for Canada, its defense spending as a share of GDP is now just under 1 per cent, but 50 years ago, just after Pierre Trudeau became PM, it was 2.5 per cent of GDP. But, even if Canada were to double its military spending in short order, its ability to fight in any major war would still be quite limited and it would clearly be unable to stop any potential attack by Russia or China (which would likely be by sea or air), or by the US (likely land and air). In any case, Canada rightly stayed out of the Iraq war that Bush started and would have no place in any wars, beyond Europe or North America, in which the US chooses to get involved. The US under Trump is certainly no friend to Canada, nor to most other countries.

    • Mike Smith says:

      It seems to me Canada gets along with China and Russia fairly well if you take the US out of the equation… and to defend against the US we either arm ourselves with nukes, become terrorists or both…. and the US is really no friend to us under anybody… look at the Kennedy / Diefenbaker relationship… or any of the others when they were not getting their way.

  5. KeninCanada says:

    The USA spends so much on defense because it has the American Empire. Canada doesn’t have an empire and frankly, we don’t want one. After the trade war, the US will be able to save money by closing at least 400 of their over 800 foreign bases.

  6. Joe from Canada says:

    Thanks, Eric, for another insightful article. Your well researched material is always thought provoking ‘outside the box’ of daily palaver.
    Regarding NATO… this would be an excellent time for ‘the allies’ to walk away.
    Disband this anachronistic mechanism which now only serves to legitimize American aggression.
    Again, thanks…

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