Here in Washington there is much talk of President Trump’s dismmissal of FBI Director James Comey and what the president may have revealed to Russian officials by way of classified information. However, many U.S. allies are currently focused on President Trump's campaign threat to pull out of NATO.
In relation to his comments advocating for pulling out of NATO, I just returned from both Warsaw and Krakow, Poland, where I gave a speech at a NATO security forum. Before departing for Poland, I took a briefing from our State Department as to what the Trump foreign policy will be.
I was honored to be on the same program as Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and several European generals. Cardinal McCarrick, a very senior retired Catholic cardinal, spoke on ethics and war. The purpose of my speech was to discuss what change the Trump administration will make regarding NATO. Poland and the Balkan states are perhaps the most threatened by Russia and dependent on NATO.
The conference was attended by a large number of military officers from NATO. I told them that my general assessment is everything regarding the US and NATO will stay the same. Although, Donald Trump said several times during the campaign that we should withdraw from NATO, he apparently did not mean it. Since coming to office, he has been careful to reassure the Europeans thaw we will stay in NATO. However, President Trump has asked the NATO nations to keep the commitment of spending 3 percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on their militaries. Only the US, Poland, and England have met that suggested level of military spending. All the other members of NATO have spent far less or have fudged their expenditures by adding soldiers’ retirement pay as current national defense spending.
My observation is that the Europeans are very prosperous and they want the United States to continue paying most of the expenses of NATO. I hope President Trump’s criticism and outspokenness will wake them up. In my speech, I have said the American taxpayer was wary of bearing such a big burden in Europe.
I also emphasized that I thought the size of our deficit will be so great by the end of this year, especially if we have a major tax cut, that the US government will be frightened to continue its level of military spending overseas. I also said I doubted very much that Russia had any intention of invading anybody as they have too many problems at home.
Thus, President Trump is much criticized for inconsistent statements, but he has woken Europeans up to the fact that we might not be there forever. Some of the governments there are scrambling to get their real defense spending up to 3 percent GDP.
Also, Poland has over the years suffered immense human rights violations by soldiers from both Germany and Russia abusing the Polish people. Therefore, the Poles argue they are in need of more international aid.
The Polish people are very religious, loving people for the most part. They are a close ally of the United States and want to be our friend. However, I took the occasion to say that I thought of a future where the USA cannot keep paying so much for the defense of Europe. We still have US troops in Germany, Italy, Poland and elsewhere in Europe. It’s expensive for the American taxpayer and our deficit is our number one domestic problem. Thus, my theme was that Poland and Europe will have to pay more. My message was not well received by the Europeans.
The reason the US taxpayer supports such broad international military activities is that we believe it is our moral duty to do so. We are about the only nation in the world who is willing to bear the burden of defending human rights in so many countries. We are a religious, caring country, but I had to tell our European friends that we need more help from them. Donald Trump’s message has them worried; hopefully they will pitch in and do more.