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That’s a Good Question

Writing at Atlantic, Jeffrey Tayler asks President Obama ten questions about Ukraine. They’re all good, thoughtful questions. Here’s a key one:

Currently, the United States has 67,000 troops in Europe, down from 400,000 during the Cold War. If, to confront a new Russian threat, Washington decides to beef up NATO forces on the continent, how many more troops will be needed, where will they come from, and, given Pentagon budget cuts, how will they be paid for? Can Europe, which is famously averse to paying its way where defense is concerned, reasonably be expected to make up the difference?

Read the whole thing.

IMO the president has already done everything we should have done or that can do in this particular crisis. If Russian troops start advancing on Kiev, that might change but absent some dramatic move on Putin’s part or more willingness to sacrifice on the part of the Europeans, I’m not sure what else we can do.

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About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging.

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    Can Europe, which is famously averse to paying its way where defense is concerned, reasonably be expected to make up the difference?

    A very interesting article.

    After 2 generations of having America provide defense services, and having a stalemated Cold War at their doorstep for 40 years, and no real military threat since the Berlin Wall came down, I fail to see how Europe will be convinced that Russia now presents a new serious threat that they (Europe) need to spend hundreds of billions of Euros on?

    Consider the fact that about half our political establishment seems to always want to join a conflict or wage war – what incentives do European nations have to “give at the office” when Americans always seem to want to go to war, also, we really do not want to hear from our “allies” when it comes to making that decision either?

    I’ve often wondered if America gave Europe an ultimatum – start paying for all of this defense we provide to you or we we will close our bases and come home – if they would call our bluff and say, “go ahead, merci, danke, gracias, etc …”?

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  2. James Joyner says:

    Additionally to the longstanding issue of burden sharing, the fact of the matter is that Ukraine is not a member of NATO. I’ve seen many suggestions from my Atlanticist brethren that NATO should nonetheless have intervened to stop the accession of Crimea. But I’m not sure why anyone would join the Alliance and contribute to its capacity if it would get Article 5 protection while doing neither.

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  3. PJ says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    IMO the president has already done everything we should have done or that can do in this particular crisis. If Russian troops start advancing on Kiev, that might change but absent some dramatic move on Putin’s part or more willingness to sacrifice on the part of the Europeans, I’m not sure what else we can do.

    From Wikipedia:

    The EU is Russia’s largest trading partner by far with the EU accounting for 52.3% of all foreign Russian trade in 2008 and 75% of foreign direct investment (FDI) stocks in Russia also come from the EU. The EU exported €105 billion of goods to Russia in 2008 and Russia exported €173.2 billion to the EU. 68.2% of Russian exports to the EU are accounted for by energy and fuel supplies.

    Yet another reason why moving away from oil,gas, and coal to renewable energy, or nuclear energy for that matter, is a very good idea.

    @al-Ameda:

    I’ve often wondered if America gave Europe an ultimatum – start paying for all of this defense we provide to you or we we will close our bases and come home – if they would call our bluff and say, “go ahead, merci, danke, gracias, etc …”?

    I don’t see Russia invading Europe for the same reason that I don’t see Pakistan invading India (or India invading Pakistan.) They all have nukes.

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  4. @PJ:

    I don’t see Russia invading Europe for the same reason that I don’t see Pakistan invading India (or India invading Pakistan.) They all have nukes.

    They certainly won’t invade France or the UK. Will either of those countries do anything if Russia invades Estonia?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  5. PJ says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    They certainly won’t invade France or the UK. Will either of those countries do anything if Russia invades Estonia?

    With Estonia being a part of both the EU and NATO, it certainly would have rather interesting repercussions if they didn’t do anything.

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  6. C. Clavin says:

    IMO the president has already done everything we should have done or that can do in this particular crisis.

    Interesting given a Quinnipiac Poll out today…

    ` American voters are divided 42 – 42 percent on whether President Obama or President Vladimir Putin is a stronger leader
    ` Voters support 69 – 21 percent economic sanctions against Russia by the U.S. and its
    European allies

    In other words…Americans think Obama should be stronger…but he’s doing exactly what they think he should do.
    I guess Obama should be more like Cheney and the Jewish Lobby…who both want to bomb Iran…
    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/03/dick-cheney-sheldon-adelson-speech-bomb-iran

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  7. michael reynolds says:

    Just as “Lower taxes!” is the all-purpose GOP answer to any domestic issue, “More penis!” is the go-to on foreign policy. If only we were manlier. If only our chests were hairier.

    This really has to be about European money, not ours. We’ve done plenty of saving Europe on the US taxpayer’s nickel. Europe can afford to at least contribute more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  8. Rob in CT says:

    I’m not one to hector Europeans about their defense budgets, but I think it’s entirely fair for us to point out that if they’re concerned about Russia they may need to increase their military spending, ’cause we’re not gonna (at least specifically with regard to our stance in Europe). But it’s not clear to me that the major Euro powers are really all that concerned. Estonia may be quite concerned… and that’s a good question to ponder: they’re in NATO. We’ve committed to defending them. This may not have been a great idea, but it’s been done. I don’t see undoing it. So, how do we make sure we can make good on that promise?

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  9. PJ says:

    @michael reynolds:

    This really has to be about European money, not ours. We’ve done plenty of saving Europe on the US taxpayer’s nickel. Europe can afford to at least contribute more.

    I don’t see Europe spending more as the solution.

    NATO has a total military budget of $990 billion.
    Europe’s share is $274 billion.

    Russia has a military budget of $90 billion.
    China has a military budget of $161 billion.

    On the other hand Europe could be contributing a bigger share if the US spent less.

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  10. Dave Schuler says:

    The only NATO members that have any real ability to project power beyond their borders are the US, France, and the UK. They account for the overwhelming preponderance of the $990 billion mentioned above, of which the US spends about half.

    In other words, there’s military spending and there’s military spending.

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  11. PJ says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    They account for the overwhelming preponderance of the $990 billion mentioned above, of which the US spends about half.

    Actually, the US accounts for about 69% of it.

    —-

    Estonia is spending $366 million (2.3% of GDP) on its military, does anyone actually think that if the country spent 10 times as much it would change anything if Russia decided to invade? That Estonia would be able to defend itself or that it would make the EU or NATO more likely to defend the country if Russia attacks?

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  12. @Rob in CT:

    We’ve committed to defending them. This may not have been a great idea, but it’s been done. I don’t see undoing it.

    Why? If Estonia gets invaded and the rest of NATO just shrugs and says “sucks to be you”, what is Estonia going to do about it?

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  13. PJ says:

    Nine Estonians have died in Afghanistan and two have died in Iraq, while those numbers pale in comparison with the number of US deaths in those wars, exactly how many Americans have died in wars started by Estonia?

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  14. al-Ameda says:

    @michael reynolds:

    This really has to be about European money, not ours. We’ve done plenty of saving Europe on the US taxpayer’s nickel. Europe can afford to at least contribute more.

    I understand your point. Yet, we’re not engaging Europe in a real discussion concerning any of this. Also, Europe has had no incentive to step up and start giving at the office. Add to that the occasional juvenile American political kabuki – “France, they’re surrender monkies” or “freedom fries” – and you have an ongoing situation where it is just easier for Europe to let America pick up the tab, and dare us to close the bases and go home (we won’t).

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  15. PJ says:

    @al-Ameda:

    and you have an ongoing situation where it is just easier for Europe to let America pick up the tab, and dare us to close the bases and go home (we won’t).

    The tab for “keeping Europe safe” isn’t close to $682 billion nor is the US forced to spend all that money on the military. NATO members have agreed to spend at least 2% of GDP which would mean $310 billion for the US. ($310 billion would still be $59 billion more than the combined budgets of China and Russia.)

    Estonia, btw, is one of the three other NATO members who actually are spending at least 2%, and yet if Russia actually would attack, NATO should leave them to fend for themselves?

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  16. PJ says:

    @PJ:

    Nine Estonians have died in Afghanistan and two have died in Iraq, while those numbers pale in comparison with the number of US deaths in those wars, exactly how many Americans have died in wars started by Estonia?

    Actually….

    For every 100.000 Estonians, 0.69 died in Afghanistan.
    For every 100.000 Americans, 0.73 died in Afghanistan.

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  17. Dave D says:

    Japan seems a bit worried about this as their foreign defense minister wrote an op ed over the weekend.

    More important, Japan understands that business as usual with an aggressive Russia that undermines the international order could embolden others closer to home to embrace Putin’s lawless tactics. The days of an inward looking Japan are over. Japan now sees threats elsewhere in the world in the context of its own security, and will react appropriately.

    I don’t know if this means they increase their own defense spending which has been floated for a few years now. What I did find interesting is her bringing up the fact that 60% of the population of their disputed islands with Russia, and a large section of the Russian Far East, are ethnic Ukrainians.

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  18. Kolohe says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    “Why? If Estonia gets invaded and the rest of NATO just shrugs and says “sucks to be you”, what is Estonia going to do about it?”

    It would be the immediate end of the NATO alliance, as the organizing treaty would not be worth the paper its printed on.

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  19. Stonetools says:

    I do wonder if anyone looked at a map when they discussed extending NATO to the Baltics. From what I see , there is no way for NATO to stop Russia from overrunning the Baltics, absent using nuclear weapons. And I don’t see us using nuclear weapons over Estonia.
    If Russia moves west, Western Europe will rearm-which might bring its own problems. Do we want a big German army back in the center of Europe? How about a nuclear Germany?

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