After railing against NATO countries not contributing their required 2% for the better part of a year, President Donald Trump has moved the goal post to 4%, according to Bloomberg.
Trump told the 29 leaders of the transatlantic alliance they needed to up their defense spending to 4% of their nations' GDP, to counter some in the alliance's "free rider" status. But here's the rub: Many of those free rider countries are on track to up their spending to the required 2%, and oh by the way, the U.S. doesn't even spend 4%.
The U.S. spends 3.5% of its GDP on defense, according to the official figures from NATO.
But what is this all about, really? Is Trump nickel-and-diming our allies because, in his view, the U.S. is getting ripped off? What are we actually getting for contributing so much to this collective defense arrangement?
As Kori Schake put it in a brilliant essay for The New York Times, quite a lot:
Contrary to the president’s core complaint, the American-led order isn’t that expensive, especially as compared with the alternatives. About 40 percent of America’s gross domestic product was allocated to the military during World War II. It now stands at less than 4 percent — not an unreasonable price for a tried-and-true insurance policy.
The president and his fellow critics argue that if America does less, others will do more — that its largess facilitates free riders. That hasn’t proved true with its closest friends: Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, the United States has reduced its military forces in Europe by about 85 percent. But Europeans have even more significantly cut their defense spending, and become more tentative about the use of military force. Far from emboldening allies, the American drawdown has made them less likely to act.
Besides continuing to rail against an international order that has held firm for 70 years, Trump went so far as to say "Germany is totally controlled by Russia" — a ludicrous statement that brought forth some interesting facial expressions from others in the room, including former Gen. John Kelly and lifelong Republican Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison:
Following the NATO summit, Trump is heading to a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is no doubt smiling ear-to-ear over the disastrous state of affairs between the U.S. and its closest allies at this moment.
The Marine Corps has tapped a new Silicon Valley defense firm to develop a "digital fortress" of networked surveillance systems in order to enhance the situational awareness of security forces at installations around the world.
Marine Corps Installations Command on July 15
announced a $13.5 million sole source contract award to Anduril Industries — the two-year-old defense technology company and Project Maven contractor founded by Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey and several former Palantir Technologies executives — for a new Autonomous Surveillance Counter Intrusion Capability (ASCIC) designed to help secure installations against "all manners of intrusion" without additional manpower.
This is no standard intrusion system. Through its AI-driven Lattice Platform network and 32-foot-tall autonomous Sentry Towers, Anduril purports to combine the virtual reality systems that Luckey pioneered at Oculus with Pentagon's most advanced sensors into a simple mobile platform, enhancing an installation's surveillance capabilities with what Wired
recently dubbed "a web of all-seeing eyes, with intelligence to know what it sees."
"This was a defensive action by the USS Boxer in response to aggressive interactions by two Iranian UAS [unmanned aerial systems] platforms in international waters," CENTCOM spokesman Army Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement. "The Boxer took defensive action and engaged both of these platforms."
On July 17, Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal briefly met with President Donald Trump at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina to discuss the eponymous legislation that would finally allow victims of military medical malpractice to sue the U.S. government.
A Green Beret with terminal lung cancer, Stayskal has spent the last year fighting to change the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court precedent that bars service members like him from suing the government for negligence or wrongdoing.
The new trailer for
Top Gun: Maverick that dropped last week was indisputably the white-knuckle thrill ride of the summer, a blur of aerial acrobatics and beach volleyball that made us wonder how we ever lost that lovin' feeling in the decades since we first met Pete "Maverick" Mitchell back in 1986.
But it also made us wonder something else: Why is Maverick still flying combat missions in an F/A-18 Super Hornet as a 57-year-old captain after more than 30 years of service?