Expert View

Trump’s Nato bluster risks all our security

by David Hannay | 18.06.2018

David Hannay is a member of the House of Lords and former UK ambassador to the EU and UN.

The fallout from last weekend’s G7 meeting in Quebec focused largely on Donald Trump’s bad-tempered outburst against Justin Trudeau, calling his Canadian counterpart “dishonest and weak”. More attention should probably have been given to another Trump tweet from Air Force One on his way to Singapore, raging against the amount EU countries pay into Nato and their trade arrangements with the US.

By now most observers have long since stopped expecting factual accuracy from Trump. It’s to be expected that he ignored the fact that the EU’s level of tariff protection and that of the US are similar, and generally low. As was the fact that those levels were established by common accord in the 1990s and have since been applied by both Republican and Democrat administrations. So too was the fact that the EU was quite recently negotiating away those tariffs in a transatlantic free trade partnership deal, which the Trump administration has now blocked.

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But the president linking Nato members’ levels of military spending to trade policy reaches a new degree of irresponsibility and risk. Nato’s outstanding success over its 70-year existence in providing security to its members without a shot being fired has depended crucially on the effectiveness of its deterrent capacity – specifically the commitment in Article 5 of the Nato treaty for each member to defend all others against aggressive action. By subjecting this to the transactional calculations of trade flows, Trump risks fatally undermining that deterrence. This point will not have escaped Nato’s adversaries.

The security with which Trump is playing fast and loose is the UK’s too, not just that of those Nato members who are failing so far to hit the 2% of GDP target to support the alliance.

Nato’s leaders will be meeting at a summit in Brussels in three weeks’ time. If the potential damage from that tweet is not repaired then – by making it clear that the Article 5 commitment is an unconditional one and, most crucially, by ensuring the trade linkage is not repeated – then the security of all of us will have been jeopardised.

Our own government will, quite rightly, be pressing our partners to move more rapidly towards the 2% target. But it must not lend itself to any such linkage, which will be as damaging to us as to those to whom it is directed.

As we move into the closing stage of the Brexit negotiations, it is becoming clearer by the day that the Trump policy prescription of disrupting his allies is going to catch us at a peculiarly vulnerable moment. We are already at odds with US policies on climate change, trade, Palestine, and their reneging on the Iran nuclear deal. Seeing our own security put into play by our closest ally is surely something we need to do all we can to resist.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

Tags: , , , Categories: Security

One Response to “Trump’s Nato bluster risks all our security”

  • Mark my words, IMHO.
    The only benefits to come from Trumps actions, are personal benefits for trump, nobody else matters to him. Whatever deal he might do at any time, anywhere, the result will be beneficial to trump.
    Any organisations that benefit from his actions will reward him.
    No benefit to the American people, or to the UK.
    I believe that he is finding ways of making very large amounts of money from his time as president.
    Enabling him to, potentially, get his companies out of debt.