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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The U.S. accounts for about 73% of the roughly $1 trillion in total military spending by NATO countries each year.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Americans have long complained about footing the bill to defend European allies. The U.S. accounts for about 73% of the roughly $1 trillion in total military spending by NATO countries each year. U.S. officials want a commitment from other countries to contribute more, given the renewed threat from Russia.

The NATO gathering next Thursday and Friday in Wales will draw President Barack Obama and 27 allied leaders to weigh strategies for Ukraine, Afghanistan and other trouble spots. The final session is aimed at agreement for more military spending. Exactly what it will require of allied countries is likely to be the meeting's hardest-fought battle, a senior NATO diplomat said.

This summit was going to be crucial even before Russia's conflict with Ukraine this year. Founded in 1949, the alliance spent 40 years countering the threat of Soviet tanks rolling into Western Europe. Since the Cold War ended, NATO has been embroiled in missions in the Balkans and Afghanistan. Last year, with its Afghan role winding down, and Russia seemingly a friend, NATO was seeking to redefine its purpose. Mr. Putin quashed any further soul searching. The summit is now likely to launch a third phase for NATO, a pivot back to defending Europe, completing Russia's transformation from a partner to a potential adversary.
 
Western military leaders were taken aback when Russia fielded a large military force within 72 hours and used it to invade Crimea. By contrast, the NATO Response Force—used once, after a 2005 earthquake in Pakistan—can take as long as 30 days to deploy. "There is pretty wide acceptance that this is no longer adequate," a senior Western diplomat said.
NATO leaders plan to approve creation of a faster response force at the summit.
 
Poland and other allies near Russia want new NATO bases on their territories. But most NATO members see an improved "readiness action plan" as a less aggressive, more flexible option.
 
A firm response to Russia will cost more money, a sensitive topic for many countries. NATO's 28 allied countries agree to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense. But only the U.S., U.K., Estonia and Greece do. Since the Ukraine crisis, seven more countries have committed to that benchmark, although it will take several years for some to reach it.
 
Europeans have for years said their frugality stemmed from struggling economies and a peaceful regional landscape. But now, their economies are better and security worse, giving the U.S. an opening to press its case.
 
"Europe has a lot of work to do to police its own backyard," said Rep. Jim Cooper (D., Tenn.), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. "It's easy to shirk responsibility when you can turn over all the world's problems to the world's only superpower, the U.S."
 
But, Mr. Cooper added, "I was struck by how many ambassadors from NATO countries were apologetic" about paltry military spending during a recent meeting in Washington. "The Ukraine incursion has scared just about every European nation."
Russia has increased military spending by 50% over the past five years, while NATO allies have cut theirs by 20% over the same time. "Obviously, this is not a sustainable situation," Secretary-General Rasmussen said.

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