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article imageOp-Ed: Trump bills Germany $490b for NATO ‘debt’. WRONG

By Paul Wallis     Mar 26, 2017 in World
Berlin - Donald Trump’s obscure logic for all things has reached a milestone at NATO. Trump handed Chancellor Merkel a ‘bill’ for $490 billon for America’s contribution to Germany’s defence. This was sublime unreality at its least impressive.
Trump is playing a low, unwinnable card at a value it doesn’t deserve. If the ‘bill’ is for public consumption, it’s not worth much there, either. Those who will think it’s a good idea obviously also don’t have any real clues as to how international defence works. Those who do know will see it as a pretty dumb, unworkable idea.
To put this $490b into perspective:
It’s almost the exact equivalent of an entire year’s US military budget, less the $70b Trump just added to the budget. That number alone suggests that the number came out of a quick, cursory glance at defence figures.
There’s no indication whatsoever of the actual basis on which this number was derived. That also suggests a level of superficiality which is predictable, but not practical, and certainly not credible.
A few points:
1. This bean counting exercise is directed at exactly the wrong people. Germany serves a very practical role in NATO, acting as the main source of high quality gear for other NATO nations, like Leopard tanks and other major inventory items.
2. Germany was the front line against the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact during the Cold War. It was military necessity, not accountancy, which gave Germany this role. The US also dictated military dispositions, including stationing a very large number of troops in Germany.
3. Germany started up its own armaments industry, with little help or support from the US. Germany is currently carrying the (somewhat more sane) level of cost of a fairly large modern military, ranked ninth in the world, in all three services on its own. That’s also a very high level of contribution to NATO, which is obviously being ignored.
4. Contributions by some NATO members aren’t what they could be, mainly because of nation size, but that doesn’t apply to Germany. Germany has one of the most effective, most fully multidimensional military forces in Europe. It’s one of the few EU countries which could effectively resist a major attack.
5. Other major NATO nations, like France and the UK, haven’t received a ‘bill’ despite many opportunities. This double standard won’t go down well in Germany.
The US military vs its political leadership
If America's military has one longstanding gripe with its politicians, it’s ever rising defence costs, particularly in times of peace. The huge money which could be used for any number of useful things is siphoned off in to the abyss of corporate excess. Since the Civil War, selling things at inflated prices to the US military is a sort of national tradition.
Eisenhower warned against the rise of the military industrial complex, with good reason. As an experienced senior officer and President, he knew the costs, both human and financial, of this rogue sector in which public money is vulnerable to every breeze that blows. He also knew that allowing the cost factor to blow out to insane levels was dangerous.
NATO is deploying troops in the Baltic states and Poland to deter Russia from making more land grab...
NATO is deploying troops in the Baltic states and Poland to deter Russia from making more land grabs following its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine
Petras Malukas, AFP/File
Subsequent Presidents (except JFK, who was a Navy lieutenant, not a general) haven’t been military people. It’s pretty obvious that many US leaders don’t know how costs in the budget translate in to costs on the ground. The Vietnam War and subsequent wars have underlined out of control costs, at the expense of military efficiency and good military professional judgment.
Trump is not a military man, not a diplomat, nor experienced in the often toxic military industrial landscape. It’s highly unlikely that he’s had much more than a cursory briefing regarding the real military issues and cost structures related to Europe. He simply hasn’t had time to formulate a working policy, let alone an actual global strategy. This swing at thin air is proof of his lack of hard information on multiple levels.
His domestic political position is also inimical to making the right strategic decisions. He’s embedded in the corporate sphere, and glued to the people who promote the very dubious values and prices of the military industrial complex.
This is a sector which managed to bill the US Air Force nearly a million dollars for flying two very basic metal screws from one US state to another in the 1990s. (Not for making the screws; just flying them.) At one stage, ash trays cost $100 each. That’s how good the accountancy is. ANY figure coming from these totally untrustworthy sources will be absurd at best, almost treason at worst. Believing these figures is naivete at its most dangerous.
$490b, however, is a good working number for evaluating the greed of the sector. It’s a snack. It’s money for pockets, not money for weapons, veterans, training, or technologies. It’s also the sort of figure which makes it look like something is being done, another highly visible, highly unlikely basis for calculation of a so-called debt that doesn’t even exist on paper.
The Leopard 2A7  one of the latest versions of the Germany s Leopard 2 tank  is designed to operate ...
The Leopard 2A7, one of the latest versions of the Germany's Leopard 2 tank, is designed to operate in both low and high intensity conflicts.
Wikimedia Commons CC License
Germany, like most of America’s already annoyed, exasperated allies, is likely to wait until the wind goes out of the windbags and competent people are back in charge. It’s pretty obvious this administration is out of its depth and out of its snug delusory comfort zone when dealing with other nations.
Don’t take it personally, America, if the world just doesn’t want to play hide and seek with facts. It may be a national sport over there, but it’s an offensive, useless, counterproductive bore elsewhere. One friendly suggestion, though – You’re the world’s biggest, easiest target. Maybe paying attention to your friends, and doing less to help your many enemies, might be a good idea?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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