This guy--a professor at Princeton--is pulling my leg, right?
Although more foreign policy spending is always welcome, Europe already assumes more than its fair share of the regional security burden. It invests not only in its military but also in crucial geo-economic and institutional instruments that the United States does not possess — but needs. In this respect, the United States freerides on European power.
Consider the facts. The U.S. military commitment to European defense is surprisingly small. After the Cold War, almost 90 percent of American soldiers departed. Today only about 5 percent of total U.S. active-duty personnel and a few hundred among thousands of U.S. nuclear weapons are deployed there.
The primary purpose of this military presence is in any case not to defend Europe. It is to promote vital interests elsewhere. Without naval ports, air force bases, hospitals and command centers in Italy, Spain, Germany and Turkey, U.S. military operations in the Middle East, South Asia, the Mediterranean, Africa and the Arctic would be nearly impossible. ...
Trump singles out resistance to Russia as a prime example of U.S. leadership. “Nobody else,” he said, “is fighting for the Ukraine.” Yet the slice of the United States’ $600 billion defense budget directed to supporting Ukraine or deterring Russia in Europe is tiny. One-time allocations of $800 million this year and $3.4 billion next year are earmarked for NATO “reassurance measures” in Eastern Europe. Less than a billion more goes for military aid to Ukraine, where key Western governments have ruled out a direct military response. By contrast, Poland alone spends nearly $10 billion annually on its military, and NATO Europe as a whole more than $250 billion. [emphasis added]
Must. Restrain. Fist. of. Death.
You will first note that as the new NATO states in the east have faced the prospect of Russian pressure and aggression, they have not been clamoring for the EU to deploy "geo-economic and institutional instruments" to their territories to keep the Russians at bay. Odd, isn't it? No. Those simpletons want heavy armor and air power.
And yes, let's consider the facts. In the later stages of the Cold War we probably had 5 division equivalents in Europe. They were backed by 11 more in the United States (one more in South Korea was tied there) and 16 National Guard divisions in reserve (I'm going by memory here, but the rough numbers will do). So 5 of 33 division equivalents, before reinforcements are added in, or 15%.
Today we have 2 brigades with a commitment to add a heavy brigade to Europe. So let's call it 3. That's out of about 32 brigades in the active force (with one tied to South Korea) and 28 in the Guard (again, from memory and this is a moving number as we go along). So 3 of 60 brigades. That's 5%.
Yes, that is much less than the Cold War. We did have a peace dividend for a while. But this is not as bad of a decline in commitment as the 90% reduction "fact" implies.
Nor does that address how our reduction in military capability is nowhere near as bad as Europe's, which has virtually no deployable military power these days.
As for the usefulness of Europe's geography to help us project power? Well, yeah, I've mentioned that (and once again, I don't know why they credited me with a PhD. TDR has an MA, in history).
And that should give the good professor some food for thought about the value of American military power to defend Europe even though our military power is based in America.
Follow closely in case this gets complicated. If America has the ability to deploy and sustain significant military power through Europe on its way to points east in the greater Middle East region, South Asia, the Mediterranean, Africa, and the Arctic, then America has the ability to deploy and sustain significant military power in Europe itself by simply shortening the power projection distance.
Oh wait, that wasn't complicated at all.
Which brings me to the last fact category designed to prove how we are a freerider on European spending.
The author really wants to argue that little of our defense spending would apply to the defense of Europe while European defense spending is almost entirely for the defense of Europe.
Oh Good God, the stupid burns.
The notion that the only American defense spending that counts are the money going to help Ukraine and the money intended to reassure our new NATO members in the east is pure nonsense.
We are not a European state, and so most of our military power is deployed across the Atlantic here in North America. Money we spend to maintain military forces here and the ability to deploy that military force overseas is absolutely necessary to defend Europe and of course counts.
As does our nuclear deterrent which costs a lot of money.
As for European spending, I'll grant Poland's total should count. They are on the front line and they are scared witless of the Russians carving them up again.
But saying European defense spending is in its totality spending to defend Europe ignores that European "defense" spending is mostly for a uniformed civil service with little military capability.
Further, the idea that spending on even effective military capabilities anywhere in Europe means the Europeans spend to defend everywhere in Europe is nonsense. Just as we must project military power to eastern Europe, the Spanish and French must deploy military power to eastern Europe to be relevant. Norway must deploy to Italy, or the reverse. Britain must deploy overseas, too, of course, for anywhere in Europe to help an ally, despite being in Europe.
Most of European defense spending is a jobs program. And most of the real military power Europeans have is essentially the ability to defend in place should the Russians come across the continent to reach them.
Actual deployable European military power that could go abroad or even to the perimeter of Europe is small. Please, just note how little military power Europe deployed to take on a small military power wracked by civil war in 2011. That war in Libya took half a year to "win" and the aftermath has not been a happy one.
Europe is militarily weak. They are just lucky that Russia's military power is not sufficient to drive all the way to the Rhine River--or even to the Oder.
But the Russians can take the Baltic NATO states now. Or Belarus (which isn't in NATO).
Amazingly, the author doesn't even rely on farcical notions that Europe really has military power to argue we are the freerider. No, Europe is the superpower, the professor says, because of their soft power:
Yet in world politics, nonmilitary instruments are often more effective. And Europe is the world’s preeminent civilian superpower.
Europe is the world’s largest trading bloc, provides two-thirds of the world’s economic aid and dominates most international organizations. It has invested heavily in the European Union, which spreads peace and market economics across the continent, and permits Europeans to negotiate as a bloc.
The man has a limited point. Military power isn't the only means of exercising power.
But once shooting starts, those aspects become irrelevant until the results of the shooting are known.
Just what will Europe's foreign aid do for defending the Suwalki Gap if Russia makes a grab for the Baltic States to link up with their Kaliningrad enclave? Will Gabon react in gratitude for European foreign aid by dispatching an expeditionary force?
Will EU bureaucrats tie up invading Russians in red tape to slow and halt the advance?
And good God, the EU had nothing to do with spreading peace throughout Europe since World War II--America-led NATO did that--unless you truly believe that Europe's history of warfare is the fault of the warmongering people who pushed their reluctant princes to war again and again.
Nor does the political EU have anything to do with prosperity. A common market with reduced national resistance to trade has that effect without empowering a proto-empire run from Brussels.
The idea that Europe is pulling its weight to defend Europe is nonsense that only the echelon above reality in charge of FUBARCOM could possibly believe.
There really are a bunch of people who think this way.