Fresh off effectively apologizing to the British for claiming they spied on him, and fresh off his icy meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Trump again took to Twitter to create an international incident. This time he insulted Germany and again displayed his ignorance of fundamental foreign policy facts. He likes to whine on Twitter and this time he again whined about the media, but also whined about Germany owing the United States “vast sums of money” for our participation in NATO.
The comments immediately set off a firestorm of protest in Germany. Not surprisingly, the Germans are right and Trump is wrong. In the words of German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen “there is no debt account at NATO.”
Our so-called “Commander-in-Chief needs to learn that the United States armed forces are not mercenaries. We do not receive tribute from foreign nations to defend them. Our military is not a protection racket. Germany owes us nothing and the Trump Tweets demonstrate his profound ignorance of what NATO is.
NATO is, at its core, a collection of equal partners. The heart of NATO is Article 5 of the NATO Agreement. Article 5 sets forth the bedrock purpose of the agreement, that an attack on one NATO nation “shall be considered an attack against them all,” requiring all of them to “assist the Party or Parties so attacked.”
In the entire nearly 70 year history of NATO only once has any nation invoked Article 5 to request the assistance of the others in its defense. That time was September 12, 2001 and the nation requesting assistance was the United States of America. The one time the collective defense agreement was needed, we needed it, and the other NATO members agreed and responded.
The other NATO nations never asked that we repay them for their assistance given us after the 9/11 terrorist attack. That is how it worked because that is how it is supposed to work. If only our Commander-in-Chief understood that.