China Suggests Trump Resolve NATO Dispute by Cutting Defense Budget

US soldiers on a Black Hawk helicopter in Rotterdam harbour
ANP/AFP Koen van Weel

China’s state-run Global Times was very taken with President Donald Trump’s declaration on Twitter that “NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS” because the current situation is “very unfair!” The United States spending less on defense sounds like a fabulous idea to aggressive expansionist China.

The Global Times thinks it would be easier for Trump to “prevail over other NATO members over defense budget disputes” than for him to win his trade war with a certain unspecified country:

European members acquire a sense of security from NATO, but also because Russia doesn’t pose the same security threat as the former Soviet Union did to Europe. It makes sense for Europe to cut defense expenditure. The right way for Washington is to cut its own defense budget to reach a balance. But the Trump administration has gone in the opposite direction to further increase its military budget, which grew 10 percent for the new fiscal year, and asks its European allies to do the same.

Instead of Europe’s security, Washington will use its increased defense budget to buttress its global hegemony, which will be exploited to support Washington’s various maximum pressure policies, including slapping more tariffs on European products.

The Global Times thinks America’s network of defense alliances is basically an imperialist scam employed by Washington to project political power around the world, which is pretty cheeky coming from one of the state media organs of a country that uses debt as an instrument of imperial domination and has a habit of treating its conquests very poorly. If Trump starts loaning the Europeans billions of dollars at high interest rates to meet their military spending targets, China will be on level moral ground to criticize him.

Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer on Wednesday accused Trump of taking a “Chinese approach” in his dealings with NATO, as related by CBS News:

“He doesn’t like any of these multilateral meetings,” Bremmer said. “He feels like they’re opportunities for the allies to gang up on the Americans. America’s weaker. He takes a Chinese approach. He wants a one-on-one meeting where he’s stronger and he wants to link security to economics, just like the Chinese do. They’ll give you money if you play ball with them politically on a security perspective. It’s the same thing Trump is doing.”

Bremmer says Mr. Trump has been consistent with that style of negotiation throughout his presidency.

“‘South Korea, you want me to defend you? You better give me what I want in a deal.’ ‘Europeans, you want me to complain or do something right on NATO? Deal with trade,'” Bremmer said. “It’s linkage and it’s really not been the American approach, it’s been the Beijing approach.”

According to Bremmer, the big difference is that China is more likely to make good on its threats when its bullying approach does not yield the desired results, whereas he doubted Trump would actually punish NATO allies in any significant way for failing to live up to their spending commitments – as just about every honest analyst expects them to do.

While Chinese media tell America and Europe to reduce their defense spending, Beijing is on a military spending spree that shows no sign of ending soon. China’s military budget increased by 7 percent last year and over 8 percent this year, with much of the money invested in modernizing the equipment and tactics of its military forces.

The Chinese insist they still spend a lower percentage of their GDP on the military, but critics of Beijing’s rhetoric point out that a great deal of Chinese military spending is tucked away in other parts of the national budget, so its actual total military expenses are much higher than the government claims.

.