OK, what now?
The truth is that Europe is only responsible for itself in this quagmire. Trump has been harping on NATO laggards for years, but he hardly invented the genre. American presidents since Dwight D. Eisenhower have complained that European allies were undermining American defense.
What Europeans don’t like to hear is that Trump is right: they used their interests. Moreover, it has always been unrealistic to expect the United States to pick up the tab for European security. To infinity.
After Trump lost to Biden in 2020, however, it seemed like everything was back to normal. Biden, a longtime transatlantic, has sought to undo Trump’s damage to NATO by letting Europeans fall back into their comfort zone.
Although overall defense spending has increased in recent years in Europe – as it should have done given Russia’s war against Ukraine – it is still far from sufficient. For example, only 11 of NATO’s 31 members are expected to meet the spending target in 2023, according to NATO’s own data. Germany, the main target of Trump’s anger, has not yet reached the 2% mark. That will likely be the case this year, if only because its economy is contracting.
The truth is that Europe has been lured back into a false sense of security thanks to Biden’s warm embrace. Instead of putting itself on a war footing by forcing industry to increase its arms production and reinstating conscription in countries like Germany where it was gradually abolished, Europe has huddled in the margins of America.