Honor the Deals

There is “anxiety” in Europe over the election of Donald Trump and what he may mean for the NATO Alliance, former Deputy Secretary-General of NATO Alexander Vershbow said Tuesday. Speaking with defense reporters in Washington, D.C., Vershbow said the “anxiety about the new President”—who has described NATO as “obsolete”—also runs to the new Congress, and whether it will continue funding the European Reassurance Initiative, which has since been renamed the Reassurance Deterrence Initiative. “These were consensus decisions” of the Alliance at the Wales and Warsaw summits “to beef up forces on our eastern flank,” he said, and are essential to “maintaining deterrence.” He believes Congress will follow through and support a “strong forward presence” in Europe. “There’s always anxiety about the unknown,” Vershbow added, saying NATO partners will be watching closely at the confirmation hearings of James Mattis and Rex Tillerson for Secretary of Defense and State, respectively, to “learn more” about what policies the new administration will pursue. Vershbow said Trump’s campaign comments about non-US NATO countries not doing their fair share to underwrite the alliance “is an opportunity, not a threat.” The uncertainty “could get the allies to do better” on burden sharing. Right now, only five alliance members are living up to the “target, not a commitment,” of spending two percent of GDP on defense. They are the US, UK, Estonia, Poland, and Greece, Vershbow said, though “France is close.”