European security in the Trump Era

The NATO summit in Brussels on May 25, three days after the Manchester suicide bomb attack, was an important gathering not only because it brought together the newly elected Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May with other leaders, but also because they decided to step up NATO's role in the fight against terrorism.

With doubts regarding the U.S. commitment to European defense after the election of U.S. President Trump circulating in Western media outlets, the summit was anxiously awaited by many to see whether Trump would re-confirm the U.S.' pledge to Europe. Moreover, as he has constantly criticized NATO members since his campaign days for not paying their dues (while even calling NATO an obsolete organization), he was under the spotlight at his first NATO Summit. In the end, he failed to reaffirm the collective defense clause of NATO, Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, instead telling the allies that they should pay up their "accumulated debts" to close "the gaps in modernizing, readiness and the size of forces."

Since the Wales summit on Sept. 4, 2014, and the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, the issue of defense expenditures has been one of the pressing issues for member states in order to increase NATO's defense capability and presence in Eastern Europe. As of today, only five of the 28 members, the U.S., Poland, Estonia, Greece and the United Kingdom, meet the agreed obligation to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense. Despite all efforts, only 16 allies have somewhat increased their defense expenditures as a share of their GDP in 2016. Thus, Trump was quite right in his call for the allies to live up to their promises, but his harsh remarks and brusque behavior was disconcerting for many.


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