Regarding the July 12 front-page article “Trump scolds NATO allies on defense spending”:
Defense spending for most other NATO members falls between 1 percent and 2 percent of their gross domestic products. Their defense budgets are devoted mostly to Europe’s defense.
Not so is the U.S. defense contribution. The United States maintains 1.3 million active-duty troops worldwide. Our defense budget consumes 3.57 percent of our GDP. Only about 62,000 troops, or 5 percent of the total force, are stationed in Europe, a far cry from the 1980s when 350,000 Americans were stationed there. The U.S. military budget slice for Europe, as a proportion of GDP, is only 0.16 percent, far less than any other NATO country spends and far less than the 4 percent the president is now asking other NATO countries to spend.
No doubt many U.S. forces stationed elsewhere could come to NATO’s defense, but such forces have other missions as well. Indeed, I question whether serious force or budgetary reductions, if any, would result if we were to turn our backs on NATO. U.S. forces based in Europe would simply be stationed elsewhere and assigned other missions, and taxpayers would continue to pay.
Unquestionably, NATO members should spend more for defense. But claiming the United States pays massive amounts disproportionate to those of its allies is absurd, and the president should stop making such claims.
John M. Luchak, Burke
Watching a U.S. president tear down NATO is mind-boggling. As a diplomat serving in Sweden during the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union, I remember when the alliance was considered a linchpin for the post-Cold War world.
Back in those days, the NATO alliance was seen as central to the goal of a Europe “free, whole, and at peace,” so the U.S. Information Agency created a program to familiarize European journalists with NATO institutions. In 1991, I led one of these NATO tours for Swedish journalists. Deviating from earlier itineraries, we included a stop in Prague, the first time one of these tours visited a non-NATO country. Although we didn’t know what to expect from this innovation, the result was eye-opening. The Euro- and U.S.-skeptic Swedish journalists were taken aback by Czech enthusiasm for NATO, forced to rethink their assumption that a former Warsaw Pact nation would not want to place itself under the Western alliance. The Czech Republic joined NATO eight years later, along with Hungary and Poland.
Beatrice Camp, Arlington
The writer is a retired Foreign Service officer and editor of the journal American Diplomacy.
Now that President Trump has slashed and burned his way through the NATO summit, I have some words for our European friends. Do not spend more money on military defense. Better to keep investing in education, child care, health care and a clean environment. This will prevent you from becoming like the United States, where nearly half of our children live dangerously close to the poverty line, medical bills send whole families into bankruptcy, infrastructure is disintegrating, education expenses exceed mortgages, our public lands and resources are exploited for the highest bidder, and our legislators are beholden to the wealthy. U.S. capitalism is not the blueprint you want to copy.
Bob Bascelli, Seaford, N.Y.
President Trump cajoles NATO allies to increase their funding for military expenditures to 2 percent of their gross domestic product. It would be momentous if the United States matched its European allies in promoting global human security. Europe provides 0.5 percent of its gross national income for foreign aid, while the United States has floated between 0.15 percent and 0.2 percent in recent years. The United States is wealthy but not pulling its weight on a percentage basis.
Michael Beer, Arlington