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Who Should Pay to Defend Europe?

by John Brian Shannon

U.S. President Donald Trump has begun a conversation about how NATO allies should pay ‘their fair share’ for European defense, and that some countries ‘owe’ the United States for decades of protection from the former Soviet Union and from today’s Russian Federation.

United States Marshall Plan Aid logo

US Marshall Plan Aid logo. Click on the image for more information about the U.S Marshall Plan for European reconstruction.


Let’s examine how we got to this point:

Germany started two world wars in the 20th century which killed millions of people.

The Allied Powers defeated Germany at great cost in lives, and in dollars which could have been used to fuel future GDP growth.

The U.S. (alone) proposed and paid for the Marshall Plan, a fund to feed the people of postwar Europe, to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure, and to guide Europe (politically and economically) towards a more unified continent. (No more feudalistic thinking = no more feudalistic wars)

The Marshall Plan fund amounted to approx. $14 billion dollars (probably about $120 billion in 2016 dollars) and it DID rebuild Europe.


TIMEOUT: By the way, there’s no sense in blaming today’s Germans for WWI or WWII — as any of the people who caused those wars are long since dead. Only the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of WWI and WWII are alive today. In today’s world Germans are our brothers and sisters, not our enemy.


In the postwar period the United States was able (on account of its flourishing economy) to help all of Europe, especially Britain, France and Germany to become all that they could and should be.

The U.S.A. was very generous with economic aid and expertise, and with their oversized defense spending much of which was allocated to defend Europe throughout the Cold War.

And let’s not forget, there wouldn’t have been a Cold War at all, except for the fact that Russia suffered over 100 million casualties in two World Wars via invasion from Europe. Therefore, I again blame ‘some dead Germans’ — but zero numbers of living Germans. They are just as perplexed as we are as to why there had to be a WWI and a WWII, and a follow-on Cold War.

The U.S. *volunteered* to spend multi-billions to help defend Europe from the perceived Soviet threat, it was not demanded by European leaders. America volunteered to step-up to the task.

For decades, the United States paid more than half the cost of defending Europe from the Soviet Union. More than half!

But it *was* voluntary.

And doing so indirectly benefited America by keeping any future threat in Europe before that Soviet threat could arrive on American territory. (The thinking was that if the Soviets attacked the U.S. they would first need to neutralize Europe — which would have been a big job even for the mighty Soviet Union at the peak of its power)


And it DID work.

It’s just that America paid far more than any other country in history has paid to defend another country, or any group of countries.

Which the Europeans appreciated and quite frankly, got used to. The case could be made that the Europeans ‘took advantage of’ American generosity and it continues to this day.

And I feel that’s a fair comment.

Rather than spending the 2% of GDP that all NATO members have agreed, some NATO countries are spending only 1% toward (NATO) defense — and the missing 1% on social welfare programs, or on R&D for their companies, or on enhancing their balance of trade — which sometimes results in an unfair balance-of-trade result for the Americans. How unfair!

I think President Trump is right to address it. But I caution him that it was successive U.S. administrations that got European leaders ‘hooked’ on the drug of American economic and military largess.

Therefore, I feel he should ‘go easy’ on the Europeans and give them time to ‘rehab’ from their U.S. addiction.


At the end of it all, ‘it worked’ in countless ways for all of the Western allies — let’s never forget that the Western powers kept the peace via NATO — thereby preventing a nuclear exchange with the Soviets by empowering Europe as the vanguard against Soviet adventurism.

And let’s not forget that it was Europe that invaded the Soviet Union (twice) and was responsible for the creation of the follow-on Cold War (which bled the economies of the Soviet bloc and the NATO bloc for 40-years) it was never the Soviets that started it.

So, to the ‘free-riders’ in NATO; It’s time to pay your fair share and get off of the drug of American economic and military largess.

All of which could and should be accomplished by 2020 — any later target would be insulting to the Americans and should be viewed with disdain.

It’s just that it’s now time for NATO allies to pay their fair share — the share they should’ve been paying all along.

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