15 July 2018   Leave a comment

The Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) has published a study of NATO defense spending which addresses the major flaw in comparing defense budgets among the members:  US defense spending reflects it global commitments and European defense spending reflects regional security concerns.  Thus, the argument that the US funds 72% of NATO activities is misleading.  According to the FPRI:

“But this viewpoint overstates U.S. contributions and undermines the need for European contributions.  The United States’ share of the aggregate NATO member defense spending may be 72% of the total, but that accounts for the entire U.S. defense budget. The U.S defense budget is not paid to NATO, is not entirely available to NATO for spending, and is not an allocation of the U.S. forces and combat power for which NATO can practically plan. Worse, this allotment exaggerates the resources available to Europe’s defense and undercuts the rationale for why increased contributions from NATO countries should be a priority for the Alliance.”

The chart below reflects European defense spending with respect to the most serious security concern of European states–Russia–and suggests that European defense spending is commensurate with its threat.  Indeed, if one breaks down US defense spending, perhaps only 25% of its budget is allocated to European security.  According to James Dobbins of the RAND Corporation:

“The United States defense budget is larger than the combined total of its NATO allies, but the bulk of that, perhaps 75 percent, is devoted to the defense of Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq other allies and partners in Asia and the Middle East and of course the continental United States.”

The discussion about US support for NATO needs to be much more nuanced than it has been so far.  Indeed, much of the criticism from US President Trump seems to be specific to Germany and not NATO as a whole.

 

The Trump-Putin summit will take place in Helsinki tomorrow and we still do not have a clear idea of what is on the agenda.  But Alina Polyakova of the Brookings Institute has written an essay on Putin’s objectives in the summit.  It appears as if Putin learned a lot from how the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore and is prepared to exploit Mr. Trump’s relative inexperience in diplomacy.  No matter what happens in Helsinki, Putin has achieved what Kim also achieved: recognition of equal status with the US.  For his part, President Trump does not appear to be optimistic about what might happen.  He told CBS News: ““I go in with low expectations.  I’m not going with high expectations.”  Of most concern to many is how the US may change its strategy in Syria, essentially giving Russia free rein in Syria in exchange for an unenforceable promise to contain Iranian power in Syria.  What us clear us that global attitudes toward the US vis-a-vis Russia have changed dramatically in recent years.

U.S. edge on favorability around the world shrinks

 

Israel’s ruling party, Likud, is pushing a very controversial bill in the Knesset which would legalize “Jewish-only communities”.  The bill has been discussed over many years, but it is expected to come up for a vote very soon.  According to the Middle East Monitor:

“The bill is expected to come to a final vote at the Israeli parliament (Knesset) on Monday. If passed, it could become part of Israel’s basic laws that serve as a de facto constitution.

“The draft law prioritises Jewish values over democratic ones in the occupied territories, declares Jerusalem al-Quds the “capital” of Israel, allows Jewish-only communities, sets Hebrew as the official language of Israel and relegates Arabic from an official language to one with ‘special status.’”

The bill is likely to be modified, but the discussion has been highly contentious within Israel and also with the Jewish communities abroad.  It poses the central dilemma of Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state.

Posted July 15, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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