In early-July, NATO will host the first full-length summit at its new headquarters in Brussels. It will also be the first NATO summit for President Donald Trump’s foreign-policy team. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has laid out the following goals for the summit: to further strengthen the transatlantic bond, to build on NATO’s work with partner nations to fight terrorism, to strengthen NATO’s Black Sea presence, and to step up efforts against cyberattacks and hybrid threats.
In contrast, Trump will arrive in Brussels with only one thing on his mind: burden sharing.1 This is hardly a new concern for an American president, or indeed for many European leaders. But in public Trump has veered between tweeting that money is now beginning to “pour in” to the NATO alliance to complaining that the NATO allies, especially Germany, are not doing enough. He will want to hear allies’ plans to meet their defense spending target of 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2024, if not sooner.
Although continuing to push allies to take on a bigger share of the burden is important, the United States should not allow this single issue to eclipse the entire summit agenda. This summit needs to be about more than burden sharing. Other allies will arrive wondering what the implications of Salisbury and Syria mean for NATO’s policy toward Russia.
NATO faces an evolving and complex strategic environment that will require heads of state and governments to do far more than simply get money in the bank. To the extent that NATO allies have plans to spend more, they need a coordinated approach on improving alliance readiness and mobility.
“Although continuing to push allies to take on a bigger share of the burden is important, the United States should not allow this single issue to eclipse the entire summit agenda.
In addition to addressing the issue of burden sharing, we believe NATO leaders should focus on five specific objectives at this summit, which closely mirror the broad goals outlined by the NATO secretary general. (end of excerpt)
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