Defense Spending Alone Cannot Fix the Alliance’s Overdependence on the United States

By Max Bergmann

March 21, 2024


  • read the article paying attention to the words in bold
  • summarize the main ideas
  • comment on the ideas expressed by the author
  • compose 3 questions for discussion


perilопасность, риск
stemпроисходить, возникать
decoupleотсоединиться, разъединяться, отделиться
alleviateоблегчать, смягчать 
averseнерасположенный, несклонный, отвергающий
perpetual постоянный, бесконечный, непрерывный
outstripопережать, превосходить, обгонять
disparagement пренебрежительное отношение, недооценка
tarnishпятнать, бросать тень; позорить
supersedeзаменять, вытеснять, смещать


  1. overdependence on
  2. engagement with
  3. invest in
  4. stem from
  5. involved in
  6. decouple from
  7. averse to
  8. commitment to
  9. in peril
  10. retreat from
  11. regardless of
  12. attachment to
  13. disinterested in
  14. withdrawal from
  15.  repercussion for

When NATO leaders meet at a summit in Washington this summer, the alliance’s 75th birthday should be cause for celebration. NATO is stronger than ever, having welcomed two new members, Finland and Sweden, within the past year. At last, European countries are ramping up their defense spending. Together, these trends paint a bright future for NATO—but there is also peril ahead.

The main problem, the one that makes solving the others more difficult, lies with NATO’s overdependence on the United States.

For decades, the United States has sat at the center of NATO, leading and managing, and occasionally micromanaging, Europe’s defense. NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander is always an American, and NATO’s ultimate security guarantee is the U.S. nuclear deterrent. When Europe fights, it relies on U.S. aircraft and U.S. military transport and intelligence. If a NATO country were attacked, U.S. forces would take the combat lead. In NATO’s early days, as Europe rebuilt after World War II, the United States played this role out of necessity. But Washington became accustomed to calling the shots, and European leaders largely accepted a secondary role. Europe’s dependence on the United States has become a feature, not a bug, of NATO’s operations.

But now, with the rise of China and the beginning of a generational shift in leadership in Washington, the United States is unlikely to provide the level of support that Europe needs. No matter who sits in the White House, U.S. engagement with NATO is almost certain to weaken in the coming years.

Consensus is emerging on both sides of the Atlantic that Europeans must take charge of their own security—an attitude that has solidified in Europe since former U.S. President Donald Trump declared in February that Washington should not come to the defense of NATO allies that “don’t pay up.” But many American and European leaders have mistakenly concluded that all it will take to replace the United States’ contribution is to spend a lot more on security. In fact, even if all European NATO members were to meet the alliance’s goal of two percent of GDP toward defense, their efforts would not significantly reduce Europe’s military dependence on Washington.

Europe does not just have a spending problem; it has a collective action problem. European countries treat defense policy as a national responsibility. Because most individual countries face few direct security threats, their governments, quite rationally, invest little in defense. Yet Europe as a whole does require protection and it must address the security risks that stem from a volatile periphery stretching from the Sahel to the South Caucasus.

Given how deeply the United States, through NATO, is involved in Europe’s defense system, no quick fix can ensure Europe’s security if the United States were to pull back. But it is still possible for Europe to shore up its defense. European countries will need to integrate their efforts, a process that will be difficult and slow and will require greater coordination both within the European Union and between the EU and NATO. Policy leaders should use the upcoming NATO summit to introduce a new strategy, one that will ensure that Europe has not only the equipment and personnel but also the organizational capacity it needs to stand and fight when confronted with a threat, with or without the support of the United States. Far from undermining NATO, this is an opportunity to make the alliance stronger and European countries more secure—as long as the United States gives Europe the time it needs to transform.


The United States has long stood in the way of Europe claiming a larger security role. The end of the Cold War brought opportunities to both reassess NATO’s direction and remake Europe, and ambitious plans for European defense were circulating inside the newly formed EU. In 1998, France and the United Kingdom reached what seemed like a historic breakthrough in the Saint-Malo declaration, which included an agreement for the EU to build an army of 60,000 troops. But Washington balked at the plan. Days after the declaration was announced, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright outlined a new U.S. position, known as “the three Ds”: any EU defense policy should not decouple European defense from the NATO structure, duplicate NATO capabilities, or discriminate against non-EU members of NATO. The United States made clear it would maintain its central role in European security, and its decision to box out the EU would stunt European defense integration in the decades that followed.

Resistance to changing this dynamic at NATO is still prevalent in Washington, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, and in many European capitals. The current bargain, after all, has served both Europe and the United States well for decades. By locking European countries into an alliance and guaranteeing their protection, NATO removed the security problems that once plagued the continent, and paved the way for the economic and political integration of Europe—a truly extraordinary achievement.

In exchange for the United States providing security for Europe, European capitals largely support American objectives elsewhere in the world. The U.S. military has been able to rely on built-in European coalitions during the wars in Afghanistan and even Iraq, as well as in more recent joint U.S.-European efforts to secure the Red Sea. European governments dutifully buy American weapons and are accustomed to having to make concessions on thorny policy issues, such as export controls on technology sales to China. With NATO alleviating the need for heavy investment in defense, European countries have also enjoyed the rewards of greater investment in social programs.

Policymakers who work at or with NATO understandably have deep affection for the alliance as it is and are averse to altering the status quo. They want to believe that the U.S. commitment to NATO will not change. Many in Europe hope that by meeting Trump’s ransom demands—by spending two percent of GDP on defense and buying U.S. arms—they can also buy Washington’s perpetual support. They could be proved right, but sticking to this approach is an increasingly dangerous gamble.

If Trump wins the U.S. presidential election in November, NATO will be in grave peril. Trump sees NATO as a protection racket rather than as an institution that benefits the United States. And unlike his first administration, his second would likely include high-level officials who share the president’s skepticism. Plans are already circulating within Trump-aligned think tanks, such as the Center for Renewing America and the Heritage Foundation, that outline a significant U.S. retreat from NATO, including shrinking the size of NATO staff and pulling U.S. forces out of Europe.

Regardless of the U.S. election outcome, Trump has already broken the traditional bipartisan consensus in favor of NATO. Misgivings about the alliance are now widespread. Jamie Dimon, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, remarked at this year’s Davos summit that Trump “was kind of right about NATO.” And Republican politicians are divided over the United States’ obligations to contribute to Europe’s defense. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who supports a more traditional U.S. security role, has struggled to get younger Republican senators, such as Josh Hawley and J. D. Vance, on board with providing additional military aid to Ukraine.

Trump’s attacks on NATO also tap into a deeper American dissatisfaction with European military dependence that reflects a fading Cold War–era attachment to European security. When Americans travel to Europe, they see sophisticated infrastructure and citizens who enjoy high standards of living and robust social safety nets, and they cannot understand why their tax dollars and soldiers are needed to defend a well-off continent whose total population far outstrips that of the United States. Bipartisan disparagement of NATO allies’ low defense spending has also tarnished the alliance’s image. And even when European armies fight alongside the U.S. military, their comparatively small contributions earn them little praise. U.S. troops joked that the acronym for NATO’s ISAF operations in Afghanistan stood for “I saw Americans fight.”

Most policymakers in Washington today have forged their careers in a post-9/11 world in which conflict in Europe seems less relevant. Because European allies brought so little to the table militarily, engaging them on issues such as security in the Middle East turned into a box-checking exercise condescendingly called “alliance management.” President Barack Obama, for instance, dutifully went through the diplomatic motions, but Europeans generally saw him as disinterested in European affairs. Even President Joe Biden, whose time on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee began during the Cold War and who maintains a deep attachment to NATO, seemed to treat Europe as an afterthought during his first year in office. His administration barely coordinated with Europe on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and it signed the AUKUS submarine deal with Australia and the United Kingdom without considering the repercussions for U.S. relations with France, which felt blindsided when the deal superseded its own submarine agreement with Canberra.

Most importantly, the United States can no longer guarantee that its military will be able to come to Europe’s defense. Pentagon planners are laser-focused on a potential conflict with China, and should such a war break out, the United States would undoubtedly redeploy key capabilities, such as air defense systems and aircraft designed for transport and refueling, to the Indo-Pacific. Europe’s dependence on an overstretched U.S. defense industry would be a major vulnerability, as U.S. production would prioritize resupplying munitions and replacement equipment for U.S. forces in active combat.


  1. How have recent developments, such as the addition of Finland and Sweden to NATO, impacted the alliance’s strength?
  2. What role has the United States traditionally played within NATO, and how has this contributed to Europe’s overdependence on American support?
  3. How might the rise of China and changes in leadership in Washington affect NATO’s dynamics in the future?

Why Turkey Is Imperiling NATO Enlargement













Why Turkey Is Imperiling NATO Enlargement

Jun 6, 2022 Sinan Ülgen

Turkey’s current negative stance toward Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership applications should not be seen as a categorical decision to block the two Nordic countries’ accession. But political leaders in Helsinki, Stockholm, and Ankara must now prepare their respective publics for an inevitably flawed agreement.

ISTANBUL – One of the key geopolitical consequences of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine has been the return of hard security concerns to mainstream European politics. In some European countries, like Germany, Putin’s invasion has triggered a commitment to increase defense expenditures. In traditionally neutral Finland and Sweden, a surge in public support for NATO membership was followed by applications to join the alliance. NATO’s Madrid summit at the end of June has thus quickly been transformed into a milestone event heralding the alliance’s further enlargement.

But NATO enlargement requires the consent of all member countries, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated that his country is “not of a favorable opinion” regarding the Swedish and Finnish applications. Erdoğan’s negative stance, which he justified on the grounds that the two countries are harboring Kurdish terrorists, is imperiling further NATO enlargement at a time of great geopolitical uncertainty. On the other hand, Turkey has traditionally supported NATO’s open-door policy toward potential new members, and Erdoğan’s statement should not be read as a categorical decision to block the two Nordic countries’ accession. In fact, it advances two other objectives. First, Erdoğan’s position reflects Turkey’s accumulated grievances concerning Sweden’s stance toward the Kurdish question in general and the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in particular. Turkey is dissatisfied with the Swedish authorities’ unresponsiveness regarding the activities of the PKK – an entity designated by the European Union, the United States, and Turkey as a terrorist organization – and its organic offshoots in Sweden. Turkey’s demands that the Swedish authorities clamp down on this network’s fundraising and recruitment activities have remained largely unaddressed. Sweden has also harbored some political refugees whom the Turkish authorities believe are linked to the July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. Moreover, Finland and Sweden previously imposed an arms embargo on Turkey because of its cross-border military operations in Iraq and Syria. The Turkish public is well aware of its government’s demands, and there is broad cross-party support for Erdoğan’s stance. That brings us to the second reason for Erdoğan’s grandstanding. By going public with his opposition to the Finnish and Swedish bids, rather than opting for quiet diplomacy, Erdoğan hopes that the issue will help to consolidate his public support. His poll ratings have recently slipped significantly and, with the next presidential election just a year away, he wants to nurture his image as a strong leader with a key role in international politics. 

Involving public opinion in matters of international diplomacy may serve the goal of transparency. But it also complicates the quest for consensus by tying governments to their stated public positions and hindering the potential for concessions and compromises. That is why it is too optimistic to expect the disagreement to be overcome by the time of NATO’s Madrid summit. Make no mistake: the standoff implies growing risks for the integrity of the alliance and for Turkey’s relations with the West. Despite the flurry of diplomatic activity that followed Erdoğan’s initial remarks, little progress seems to have been achieved so far. It is unclear that Finland and Sweden can actually meet all of Turkey’s demands. They should be able to provide the requested guarantees to implement domestic anti-terror legislation rigorously, thereby curtailing designated terrorist entities’ fundraising and recruitment activities. Ending the arms embargo should be achievable, too. In fact, the Swedish government recently announced that there were no impediments to arms exports to Turkey. But for some of Turkey’s other demands, like its extradition requests, Finland and Sweden may not be able to offer a firm commitment. In a constitutional order characterized by a strong separation of powers, governments cannot decide in lieu of judicial agencies. At best, Turkey and the two Nordic countries can agree to establish a more regular dialogue whereby these requests can be handled in a more constructive way. Turkey would also significantly strengthen its diplomatic position by visibly bolstering the rule of law at home, starting with implementing the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.

There is a diplomatic “grace period” until NATO’s Madrid summit. But once the gathering is over, the position of other NATO members and particularly the US may start to harden against Turkey. Accusations that Turkey is blocking enlargement at a critical juncture for European security, and thus helping Russia, could gain traction. Such an outcome would be inimical to the purpose of the alliance and, by isolating Turkey, could reinforce Erdoğan’s resistance. Avoiding this scenario will require Finland and Sweden to commit to what is politically feasible and morally necessary in a common struggle against terrorism. It will also require Turkey to accept what is likely to be an imperfect deal. Political leaders in Stockholm, Helsinki, and Ankara must now prepare their respective publics for an inevitably flawed agreement.

Sinan Ülgen, a former Turkish diplomat, is Director of the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe.


stance позиция, установка
surge повышение, быстрый рост, резкий скачок
clamp downподавлять, прекращать, запретить
nurture вынашивать, воспитывать, лелеять; питать
standoff тупик, ничья, безвыходное положение
curtailсокращать, урезать, уменьшать
inimical враждебный, недружелюбный, неблагоприятный, вредный
flawed бракованный; дефектный, ошибочный
imperilподвергать опасности; рисковать
implyозначать, подразумевать, предполагать, значить


  1. stance toward
  2. surge in 
  3. support for 
  4. transform into 
  5. on the grounds
  6. in particular
  7. in general
  8. clamp down on 
  9. impose on 
  10. at a juncture


stance бракованный; дефектный, ошибочный
surge вынашивать, воспитывать, лелеять; питать
clamp downвраждебный, недружелюбный, неблагоприятный, вредный
nurture означать, подразумевать, предполагать, значить
standoff тупик, ничья, безвыходное положение
curtailповышение, быстрый рост, резкий скачок
inimical позиция, установка
flawed сокращать, урезать, уменьшать
imperilподавлять, прекращать, запретить
implyподвергать опасности; рисковать


stance to cut short; reduce
surge to indicate or suggest without being explicitly stated; to involve as a necessary circumstance; presuppose
clamp downto behave repressively; attempt to repress something regarded as undesirable
nurture harmful; causing injury; unfriendly; hostile
standoff a mental or emotional position or opinion taken with respect to smth
curtailstanding apart; aloofness, smth that counterbalances
inimical characterised by defects, blemish; having imperfections
flawed a strong, forward movement, a sudden rush or burst
imperilto put in danger; endanger; pose a threat
implyto encourage or provide moral support, to bring up; train; educate


stance restrict, confine, decrease, diminish 
surge rise, increase, soar
clamp downencourage, foster, bolster, boost, support, inspire, motivate, mentor, guide
nurture indicate, suggest, signify, involve, mean, entail, contain, denote
standoff antagonistic, hostile, noxious, hazardous, detrimental
curtailattitude, position, opinion, viewpoint, standpoint, perspective, angle
inimical defect, faulty, imperfect, with pitfalls, with drawbacks 
flawed jeopardise, endanger, put at risk
imperilrestrict, restrain, curb, limit, hamper
implystalemate, deadlock, draw, halt, stoppage


stance break/ escalate/ intensify/ resolve 
surge policies/ component, part, logic, argument
clamp downagainst [corruption, the war]/ on the issue
nurture to humanity/ state/ interests/ public well-being/ nation/ safety
standoff talent, growth, natural ability, business
curtaildata, experiment
inimical in [production, prices, profits]; of [embarrassment, excitement, anger]
flawed the ecosystem/ economic growth/ democratic institutions/ fundamentals/ system/ plan
imperilinflation, unemployment, number, power, spread
implyon [fraud, domestic violence, racism]


  1. stance ___
  2. surge ___
  3. support ___
  4. transform ___
  5. ___ the grounds
  6. ___ particular
  7. ___ general
  8. clamp down ___
  9. impose ___
  10. ___ a juncture
a mental or emotional position or opinion taken with respect to smth

attitude, position, opinion, viewpoint, standpoint, perspective, angle 

take a stance on the issue, 
the [government’s, celebrity’s, politician’s] stance on,
a stance against [corruption, the war]
быстрый рост,
резкий скачок
a strong, forward movement, a sudden rush or burst

rise, increase, soar

a surge in [production, prices, profits]
a sudden surge of [embarrassment, excitement, anger]
clamp down
to behave repressively; attempt to repress something regarded as undesirable

restrict, restrain, curb, limit, hamper

clamp down on [fraud, domestic violence, racism][bids, efforts, plans, laws]
to clamp down on [fraud]
to encourage or provide moral support, to bring up; train; educate

encourage, foster, bolster, boost, support, inspire, motivate, mentor, guide

nurture your [talent, growth, natural ability, business]
standing apart; aloofness, smth that counterbalances

stalemate, deadlock, draw, halt, stoppage

silent/ shocked/ new/ polite/ tense/ geopolitical standoff
break/ escalate/ intensify/ resolve the standoff
unaware of the standoff
to cut short; reduce

restrict, confine, decrease, diminish 

an attempt to curtail [inflation, unemployment]
curtailed the [number, power, spread] of
[drastically, sharply, significantly, further] curtail
недружелюбный, неблагоприятный,
harmful; causing injury; unfriendly; hostile

antagonistic, hostile, noxious, hazardous, detrimental

inimical to humanity/ state/ interests/ public well-being/ nation/ safety
characterised by defects, blemish; having imperfections

defect, faulty, imperfect, with pitfalls, with drawbacks 

a flawed [component, part, logic, argument]
flawed [social, economic, foreign, security] policies
to put in danger; endanger; pose a threat

jeopardise, endanger, put at risk

imperil the ecosystem/ economic growth/ democratic institutions/ fundamentals/ system/ plan
to indicate or suggest without being explicitly stated; to involve as a necessary circumstance; presuppose

indicate, suggest, signify, involve, mean, entail, contain, denote

the [data, experiment] implied that
implied [the beginning of, an end to] 
the [fact, thought, idea] was implied by

How to Boost NATO-EU Cooperation

Aug 19, 2022 Ian Bond  and Luigi Scazzieri

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown that Europe can no longer afford to treat quasi-theological arguments over EU and NATO primacy as more important than its own security. While the Alliance clearly remains indispensable to deterring Russia, the EU has a crucial complementary role to play.

LONDON – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February was a watershed moment for European security. But relations between NATO and the European Union remain marred by mutual suspicion, institutional rivalry, and a lack of effective cooperation. The two organizations must set aside their differences and work together. Russia once again poses a long-term threat to European security. At the same time, the economic spillover from the war in Ukraine will intensify security challenges along Europe’s southern flank. And, as the current crisis involving Taiwan has shown, China’s increasing assertiveness will loom progressively larger in America’s strategic thinking. The key European security challenge in the coming years will be to strengthen deterrence against Russia while retaining the ability to tackle other threats. When it comes to deterring Russia, NATO is clearly the