President Donald Trump wasted no time unloading on the United State's European allies over the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and "trade deficits" in a series of tweets after returning from a World War I memorial event in Paris. According to the New York Times, Trump revisited his familiar talking points, demanding a better arrangement for the United States, who he believes pays an unfair portion of the costs related to NATO.
"Just returned from France where much was accomplished in my meetings with World Leaders. Never easy bringing up the fact that the U.S. must be treated fairly, which it hasn't, on both Military and Trade," he tweeted Monday morning. "We pay for LARGE portions of other countries military protection, hundreds of billions of dollars, for the great privilege of losing hundreds of billions of dollars with these same countries on trade."
Trump didn't refer to the NATO alliance directly, but his comments are familiar to anyone who has followed the president's position on the agreement. The topic is a popular one for the president and among his political base. During his campaign for president, he repeatedly demanded that countries meet or double the defense spending goals set by NATO in 2014.
As part of the 2014 agreement, each of the allies agreed to raise defense spending to 2 percent of their gross domestic product. The countries have until 2024 to meet this goal, but so far only five have done so. The U.S. spends far more than any other country in the alliance.
Trump believes that the United States gains nothing from the NATO agreement other than a trade deficit.
"Massive amounts of money spent on protecting other countries, and we get nothing but Trade Deficits and Losses. It is time that these very rich countries either pay the United States for its great military protection, or protect themselves...and Trade must be made FREE and FAIR!" he wrote.It's worth noting that, so far, only one country has invoked the NATO treaty clause that requires a response from all countries if one is attacked. That was during the September 11 terrorist attacks. Today, allied forces continue to fight and die with U.S. troops in the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
Economists disagree with Trump's assertion that the United States trade deficit is lost money. The president has said that the U.S. loses "$800 billion" a year on trade. Beyond the fact that the U.S. gains goods and services with the money it spends, trade imbalances do not appear to hinder economic growth.
Trump's position further sets the U.S. apart from many of the leaders at the WWI memorial. French president Emmanuel Macron criticized Trump's nationalistic leanings in a speech on Sunday.
"Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism by saying: 'Our interest first. Who cares about the others,'" Macron said.