Concerning NATO: “I will also be requesting that all NATO nations promptly pay their bills, which many are not now doing.” With this strange, even funny, declaration, which sounded much like a landlord calling in the rent, Trump probably meant that he would like all NATO nations to spend 2% of their GDP on defence. He was correct in his statement that only five of the 28 NATO member states currently meet this minimum: the United States (3.61%), Greece (2.38%),the United Kingdom (2.21%), Estonia (2.16%) and Poland (2%). France lies in sixth position spending 1.78% of its GDP on defence (the figures are NATO’s). “They understand it, they know they have to do it, they can afford to do it. They have no respect for our leadership. They have no respect for our country. They will do it. They will be happy to do it,“ he hammered, but without threatening, this time, to leave the Alliance if they don’t pay up. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during a 9 November press conference that “US leadership is as important as ever. A strong NATO is good for the United States and good for Europe” and reminded him that “NATO’s security guarantee is a treaty commitment. All allies have made a solemn commitment to defend each other. This is something which is unconditional and absolute.“
Trump then made a serious mistake in his speech when he said he “will be, respectfully asking countries such as Germany, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia to pay more for the tremendous security we provide them. And they’ll fully understand. They’re economic behemoths. They’re tremendously successful countries but we’re subsidising them for billions and billions of dollars!” This is completely untrue. According to US State Department figures, in 2014 the United States gave $5.9bn in military financing and $105.6m in international military education and training. Israel and Egypt received 75% of this, followed by Irak, Jordan and Pakistan. Saudi Arabia received $10,000 for military education and training whilst the other countries cited by Trump received nothing at all. It is true that Washington keeps large US bases abroad which costs some $10bn a year, according to the Senate Committee on Armed Services, of which 70% were spent in Germany, South Korea and Japan, but, as the Committee points out, a large part of this budget would still be spent even if these bases were set-up in the United States.
Trump continued to err when he declared that “we will build a state-of-the-art missile defence system,” as though the United States didn’t already have one, and he promised his audience that the modernising of naval cruisers at a cost of $220m each and the procurement of additional modern destroyers, would create new jobs. He clearly has never looked into the Aegis programme and is unaware of the existence of the Missile Defence Agency.
He also talked about “retooling” the military. “Every state in the Union will be able to take part in rebuilding our military and developing the technology of tomorrow,” he said, promising that “the workers and the jobs will take place throughout the US.” Trump added that he would also “invest heavily in offensive cybercapabilities.“
What struck us in this speech were the short, simple phrases, which clearly appealed to the electorate, and the way he seemed to be talking to primary school children rather than to adults. He treated this complex subject simplistically … the trouble is that it is not so simple. Let’s hope he understands that before 20 January 2017.