The bickering over tariffs and the refusal to sign the G7’s concluding communique are the latest in the Trump administration’s periodic temper tantrums with our western allies. President Trump called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada “dishonest and weak” and Chief Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow accused Canada of “backstabbing.”
President Trump’s war of words at the G7 was mirrored by another comment made at the Singapore summit this week:
….And add to that the fact that the U.S. pays close to the entire cost of NATO-protecting many of these same countries that rip us off on Trade (they pay only a fraction of the cost-and laugh!). The European Union had a $151 Billion Surplus-should pay much more for Military!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2018
This tweet is correct in its assertion that the U.S. does pay a large chunk of NATO’s military budget. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has even conceded that some European states, including her own, need to increase their military spending. What these numbers do not show, though, is the continued commitment our NATO allies have shown to the alliance and their willingness to sacrifice lives for it.
What many Americans are forgetting is that over the last 17 years, since the start of the war in Afghanistan, our western allies have fought and died alongside U.S. troops.
In Helmand province, British Royal Marines and Army infantrymen held the line during the Taliban offensives of 2006-07 at places like Musa Qala, Sangin, and Now Zad. Since the start of the war, the UK has sacrificed 454 sons and daughters in Afghanistan. Despite its seemingly meek cultural attitudes, Canada has deployed thousands of troops to Afghanistan in the past 17 years. Canadian forces held the line in Kandahar province, Afghanistan and provided critical infantry support during the Shahi Kot Valley offensive of 2002. Canada has sacrificed 158 sons and daughters in Afghanistan. Additionally, from January 2011 to April 2014, two Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan as Ottawa began to withdraw from the country. In that same period, at least 29 Canadian Afghan war veterans took their own lives. This is an underreported figure. Afghanistan has been the costliest military conflict for Canada since Korea.
I could continue to list other NATO and coalition members who have sacrificed the lives of their troops in Afghanistan (Germany 54 dead, France 88 dead, Denmark 43 dead, giving it the highest per capita rate of any coalition nation). And 29 countries have lost troops in Afghanistan.
The point I want to make here is this: Our alliances are not perfect, but our allies are reliable, loyal, and willing to sacrifice alongside the United States. President Trump’s foreign policy seems to revolve around money and transactional benefit. “What good is this if I only get X amount of dollars out of it?”
Coming from a New York real estate background, this should come as no surprise. But President Trump should remember that there are costs that have nothing to do with money or trade deficits. These are costs that our allies have been willing to pay for the past seventeen years.
Jim Pomeroy is a graduate of James Madison University with a BA in History and Political Science and a minor in Middle Eastern Studies. An avid student of history and foreign affairs, he currently lives in Virginia and works with veterans regularly. All views expressed are his and his alone.