In the wake of Donald Trump’s historic new pact with Canada and Mexico, now formally called the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the future of the economic interactions between these countries will be very interesting to track. But as the US revamps the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), it would also be wise to look at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and see how the US’ new policies on trade and regulations may affect global relations.
Firstly, let’s discuss the history of NATO. The organization was created in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War in order to protect the member states from any expanding Communist powers. The understanding was that, in the event of an invading nation that threatened the security and sovereignty of any one of the member states as had happened in both World Wars, that the other nations would unite against the threat. This ideology was expressed in Article 5 of the treaty, which has only been invoked once. Following the attacks on American soil in the September 11th attacks, the member states of NATO deployed troops to Afghanistan under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
NATO as an organization has different benefits for the Europeans and the Americans, and there has been much discussion about the aspects of the American economy and social structure that is impacted by the commitment enforced by the organization. I happen to be strongly of the opinion that engaging in international activity that strengthens the diplomatic ties between nations fighting a common enemy is of utmost importance, but I will leave aside my evident biases for the purposes of objectively discussing the effect of NATO on the United States.
For the United States, the economic benefits of the treaty are not as obvious as they would seem. For one, both President Trump and former President Obama have lamented the lack of economic input by other nations as compared to the United States, which contributes 3.5% of its GDP to the treaty. Many nations are not on track to contribute the suggested 2% of their GDP, including nations like Germany and France. Additionally, a major portion of debt that America is owed is from such European countries, and the higher debt leads to budgetary problems at home. There are even fears in the wake of the President’s lashing out at the international treaty that the European countries could leave America out to dry, creating their own NATO, and refusing to pay America back while reaping the economic benefits.
But these fears are unfounded. The European and American economies are inextricably linked. Without the security and stability provided by NATO, trade between EU nations and the United States would be nigh impossible and the $700 billion lost as a result would massively impact the US’ economy. And most European countries couldn’t leave NATO without first expelling the hundreds of soldiers on their lands on dozens of military bases set up during the Cold War to repel a Communist attack. These bases are a crucial part of the economy of the surrounding areas, and even earn money back for the American government, not to mention the continued support of international actions sends a strong message from the US.
Remaining in NATO is a showing of support for the international community and reaffirms our trust in a global solution to many problems evident in the world today. However, I don’t disagree with President Trump that the other member states of NATO need to increase their contribution to the fund, because in order for an alliance to remain strong all members of the alliance must participate in equal amounts. America can’t end up being the Stalinist Russia of the modern Grand Alliance. But to suggest that NATO is a net drain on our country overlooks the interconnectedness of the nations that participate in it. There are few good reasons why the United States should pull out of NATO, and none of them outweigh the immense good it currently does and the destruction that would reign if it didn’t exist.
- Politico: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/09/30/nafta-trade-canada-819081
- USA Today: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/07/12/what-nato-and-why-trump-critical/778841002/
- FactCheck.org: https://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/whats-trumps-position-on-nato/
- Atlantic Counsel: http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/here-s-why-the-united-states-needs-nato