Since the — nearly — total destruction of Europe in the Second World War (1939-1945), the Europeans depended heavily on their strong transatlantic ally –U.S. Through the U.S.-funded Marshall Plan, some 21 European nations enjoyed over $12 billion dollars (ten-fold with today’s money). That emergency fund continued to push the slow recovery of Europe’s economy through the post-war years from 1948 to 1951.
In 1949, the cold war was picking up between the east coalition represented by the Soviet Union and the west coalition represented by Western Europe, Canada, and U.S. Consequently, the West led by U.S. was forced to form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to fend off any possible Soviet aggression and to tackle any mutiny from the defeated axis nations.
Frankly, U.S. was a huge support to the Europeans in the Red nation’s face till its unexpected fall in 1991. But will that continue?
During the 2016 elections of the U.S., Mr. Donald Trump repeated that the NATO is “obsolete”. Although, he mentioned that he “strongly support NATO”, he also stressed that the NATO allies must pay their “fair share” in the NATO budget to be protected by U.S.’s military. That notion was emphasized by the U.S.’ s Secretary of Defense and the formal Marine Corps general, James Mattis. In his speech to the NATO, he honestly said:
“I owe it to you to give you clarity on the political reality in the United States, and to state the fair demand from my country’s people in concrete terms. America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense.”
The ballpark value of spending that each European nation has to fulfill is 2% of its GDP. Right now, nations that spend 2 % or more are U.S. (3.61%), Greece (surprisingly and despite its maladies: 2.38%), UK (2.21%), Estonia (2.16%), and Poland (2.00%). The least spending country is Luxembourg with 0.44% of its GDP.
Germany comes in the approximate middle of 1.19%. Germans planned to ramp up their defense spending by 2024, which do not match Mr. Trump’s administration expectations. Germany is wary that if they suddenly committed to increasing their defense budget they would lose their budget surplus. Ms. Merkel might lose lots of votes in the coming elections because of that sudden spending. In addition, the Germans have some psychological mistrust of the Bundeswehr (their military and its civil administration), who, supported by their previous notorious leaders, invoked avoidable wars in WWI and WWII after “secretly increasing their defense budget” especially in WWII, which resulted in the complete destruction and the dissolution of two, once, large empires.
To make things even worse, Brexit, the famous exit of UK from the single European market, would definitely affect UK’s defense spending (the second greatest in the NATO countries). Right now, UK is going through a difficult exit process that will push many investors, companies, and even individuals out of the United Kingdom. It is normal that Germany and the EU countries will ensure that the Brexit process is painful as possible to deter others from trying. Of course, UK will not tolerate such treatment and may withdraw completely from or decrease its commitments towards the NATO.
Not very far from now, France, Germany, Slovakia, Netherlands, and Italy are expecting elections where far-right parties enjoy increased popularity among the voters’ base. It is noteworthy that almost all these parties are not favoring the NATO or even the EU zone.
Seemingly, the dissolution of NATO is a matter of time rather than an unexpected event.
And here comes Russia.
Russia waged a successful and intelligent campaign to regain its imperial and expanding empire. The new rising Red empire is strengthening its foothold in the Middle East through direct and proxy intervention in Syria. Russia established a strong alliance with Turkey after U.SA abandoned Turkey in Obama’s era. Erdogan, Turkey’s president, discovered early that the NATO and U.S. turned their backs on him when he hit the Russian jet fighter on the claims of trespassing of the Turkish airfield and tried to seek NATO’s help to no avail.
Russia, in its campaign to support the Syrian regime, bombed heavily the civilian areas under the control of the Syrian opposition. That bombing did not only change the civilian demographics to stabilize the Assad’s regime but also sent millions of refugees to the EU, which fostered destabilization of those countries and increased the popularity of their far-right parties that favor nationalism and want to restore relations with Putin.
All these factors would ultimately increase Germany’s fear of its future leading to the beginning of new extensive German armament efforts to counter the NATO dissolution, the increased Russian aggression on the EU frontiers as Ukraine, Poland, and the Kaliningrad’ s enclave between Poland and Lithuania that has between 100,000 and 200,000 troops in addition to nuclear missiles.
Germany for a long time has economically dominated the EU in what some analysts like to call: The Fourth Reich. This domination was signaled many times by Mr. Trump mentioning that “the EU is just a vehicle for Germany.” Mr. Trump and the EU members stated that Germany should decrease export activities and start to invest in infrastructure and public spending. That call is not strange since Germany has an export-led economy with the highest positive trade balance with the EU and U.S.
Germany is the ninth army in the world and the second in the old continent after France from personnel’s point of view, however, it is under-armed and severely ill-equipped. On the other hand, Germany is the third biggest country in weapons’ exports, and can easily push their weapons’ production rate to stand by themselves in the face of the Russian danger and the expected NATO dissolution.
The Fifth Reich is rising slowly, but steadily.