NATO plays an important role on in maintaining security and peace around the world. It's true not all NATO members spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense, but that also ignores the fact that NATO military spending is more than China and Russia combined, and only comes second to the United States. Saying NATO is skipping its bills is a complete distortion of the fact.
The only time NATO was called for mutual defense was in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. NATO allies have been fighting alongside American troops since the very beginning. These nations share our values and are willing to fight to defend those values. That's not something that should be so readily thrown away.
Additionally, NATO is decidedly not a Cold War relic. When I was Supreme Allied Commander, I had over 170,000 NATO troops from all 28 nations fighting on three continents in post-Cold War missions. Of the 140,000 troops under NATO command in Afghanistan, about 50,000 came largely from our European Allies, and hundreds of them died there. On a per capita basis, nations like Canada, the Netherlands, Estonia, Great Britain and others endured high losses in combat. And yes, Mr. Trump, they were fighting terrorists in Afghanistan. Today’s NATO is not refighting Cold War battles, but is most definitely engaged in the transnational threats we all face together.
Most importantly, NATO serves as a counterweight to Russia. Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin's ambitions for a stronger and more influential Russia is reflected in his overreach in Ukraine, Georgia, and other eastern European countries. NATO acts as a powerful check on Russian ambitions. Without the organization, we'll see more situations like the Russian annexation to Crimea—and we'll have no answer to it.
In addition to the post-Cold War activities (counter-terrorism, peacekeeping, cyber-security and so forth), NATO is today also exercising its collective defense structure by deterring Russia from further adventurism in Europe. Having now watched Vladimir Putin occupy parts of Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, and annex Crimea, we should all realize that his greatest desire is to break apart the NATO alliance so that he can exercise even greater influence in Europe. Therefore, the NATO exercises, training missions and deployments to the eastern border of the alliance are critical and necessary in today’s world—keeping the peace in Europe that the U.S. fought for twice in the 20th century.
Former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO James Stavridis concluded his piece for TIME, saying:
Lastly and most important, we should continue to support and lead NATO for the most significant of all reasons: The partners share our fundamental values. Where else in the world would we find such a pool of treaty partners who value freedom, liberty, democracy and all that we cherish? We have stood together since the end of World War II, when the first Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight Eisenhower, helped create the ethos and capability of the young alliance that followed the leadership of the United States. NATO continues to have deep and real capability and influence in the world. We would throw all that away today at great peril, and rue the decision deeply.
Trump and his supporters say NATO is getting a free ride from the U.S. and and puts American interests second. NATO nations are required to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending. Only five countries in the 28 nation alliance actually spend that amount. The other 23 countries are getting a free ride from the American military. No one wants to abandon our European allies, but these states need to start providing for their own defense. The U.S. is not the world police. Trump said in a speech:
“We expect our partners, whether in NATO, in the Middle East, or the Pacific — to take a direct and meaningful role in both strategic and military operations, and pay their fair share of the cost — have to do that.”
Some critics argue the U.S. should withdraw from NATO because it's an outdated alliance that doesn't actually do anything for Americans. NATO was fist formed as an alliance of nations to deter the Soviet Union from expanding into Europe. These days, the largest threat to America and Europe is radical Islamic terror. Because of this, Trump initially called NATO obsolete, although he's since backtracked on those comments.
Many of his supporters still think he should follow through on withdrawing. After all, giving our European allies a free defense is not putting America first. The U.S. has been putting other global interests before American interests. It's time to rethink our alliance and commitment to ensure Americans are being taken care of before we take care of the world.
“Not isolationist, but I am America First,” he said. “I like the expression.” He said he was willing to reconsider traditional American alliances if partners were not willing to pay, in cash or troop commitments, for the presence of American forces around the world. “We will not be ripped off anymore,” he said.