How Europe—Not Trump—Corroded NATO

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Originally published by the Wall Street Journal

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Tom Rogan’s op-ed “Is Germany a Reliable Ally? Nein” (Jan. 24) and your editorial “Deterrence Message to Moscow” (Jan. 25) correctly highlight why NATO’s Ukraine strategy likely will fail. There will be two owners for this failure.

The first is the Biden administration, because of its weak response to Russia’s aggressive behavior. The second, perhaps more important owner, is NATO’s European member states.

As U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, I had to repeatedly answer the question, “Why is America no longer supportive of NATO?” I would respond by pointing out that the U.S. is one of the few NATO countries fulfilling its defense-spending commitment, far exceeding the 2% of gross domestic product that all NATO member countries agreed to invest at the 2014 Wales Summit.

The Dutch were spending only 1.3% of GDP on defense, forcing me to ask in kind, “Why are the Dutch not committed to NATO?”

The Trump administration was correct in connecting the hollowing out of NATO to Europe’s lack of investment. It also identified the vulnerabilities to the alliance created by embracing Russian energy through projects such as the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Instead of questioning the Trump administration’s commitment to NATO, Europeans would have done better questioning the depth of their own commitment.

President Vladimir Putin sees a militarily weak NATO and Germany heavily dependent on Russian energy. He sees French President Emmanuel Macron call for an independent European Union military force and separate European negotiations with Russia. No wonder Mr. Putin assesses that the alliance is divided and now is the time for him to act.

Mr. Macron welcomed President Biden back into “the club.” No more mean tweets—instead, a return to hashtag diplomacy and deferring to French and German whims. This club is now headed for the train wreck that President Trump saw coming.

Pete Hoekstra
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