Our International Wellness Queens – OpEd – Eurasia Review

By Ryan McMaken*

American policymakers have so far shown an astonishing sense of common sense in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While some war enthusiasts among American experts have certainly been campaigning for World War III, leaders in the White House and Congress repeatedly and outright refused most calls for an escalation of the conflict.

Unfortunately, a number of foreign parliaments among the United States’ NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) “partners” have not been so hesitant to escalate matters. Among the most reckless on this issue are the legislators of a number of Eastern European states. For example, policymakers in the Baltic countries have in recent weeks called for a no-fly zone in Ukraine. Newsweek reported this month:

Lithuania’s parliament has unanimously approved a resolution calling for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, joining fellow NATO members Estonia and Slovenia in the call. Rihards Kols, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Latvian Parliament, also announcement [on March 17] his country claims such an area.

But here’s the thing: a so-called no-fly zone would be a de facto declaration of war on Russia by NATO. Moreover, when we say “by NATO”, we mainly mean “by the United States”.

Around the same time, the Polish regime launched its own plan to escalate the war and bring the United States into direct conflict with Moscow. Warsaw, apparently without consulting Washington, hatched a plan to send fighter jets to Ukraine via US military bases and then ask the US to “fill” the Polish Air Force with F-16s. This would also have been a significant escalation, and was thankfully overruled by the White House.

This kind of behavior that benefits the American taxpayer has become an identifiable pattern with countries that see themselves as benefiting enormously from American military spending but contributing next to nothing to American security or even the NATO alliance.

As a result, when Estonian lawmakers – Estonia being a country that has no air force at all apart from a few unarmed surveillance planes – want a no-fly zone, these people know that this will be mainly someone else who will fight, die and sacrifice to pay for everything. “Someone else”, of course, will often refer to American pilots and American taxpayers.

Moreover, the idea that these countries offer any strategic advantage to the United States in terms of defending vital American interests is implausible. The current war in Ukraine has illustrated just how weak the Russian regime is in terms of power projection anywhere beyond its immediate neighbors. The idea that Poland and Estonia serve as valuable “buffer states” between the United States and a second-rate power like Russia is hardly convincing. These NATO members are simply not essential allies. Rather, they are net liabilities that may even end up forcing an escalation that drags the United States into a war with another nuclear power. The United States’ commitment to defending Eastern Europe through organizations such as NATO can the best be described as a form of humanitarian aid for member states that have nothing to offer in terms of vital US geopolitical advantages.

Who pays for NATO?

In collective security organizations like NATO, Americans find themselves in a position of financially supporting the military defense institutions of foreign states that not only benefit from largesse, but have the potential to turn regional wars into a third war. world world.

The unfortunate mechanism behind all of this is NATO’s key provision – Article 5 – which states that an attack on one member is to be considered an attack on all members. This means that when some NATO members court conflict and act recklessly, it could end up imposing significant costs on all other NATO members.

This enormous drawback of NATO’s structure is usually ignored in favor of the emphasis on NATO’s presumed deterrent effect. In other words, it is assumed that the huge amount of military assets controlled by NATO members as a whole will prevent any outside state from attacking a NATO member.

Some Member States, however, contribute a disproportionate share of this expenditure, while other States contribute very little. This is the case for the two types of expenditure on which NATO and its deterrent effects are based.

The first is the NATO operational budget, which funds NATO cut programs and institutions. In this area, the United States has historically provided more than one-fifth of all funding. As recently as 2019, for example, 22.1% of NATO’s “commonly funded budgets” came from the United States. Germany came second with 14.7% and France third with 10.5%. In 2021, NATO members adopted new budgeting that reduced the US share. The current plan, which will be in effect until 2024, counts the United States and Germany as major contributors at 16.3% of pooled funding. The United Kingdom and France are respectively third and fourth, with 11.3% and 10.5% of common funding.

Total spending on the NATO budget, however, is a small affair at just 2.5 billion euros.

Member States’ military expenditure

the real the benefit of NATO membership – felt primarily by its smaller member states – comes from the deterrent effect that derives from the collective military capability of all members.

For example, the total military expenditure of all NATO members combined is over $1 trillion. So how much of that total is provided by US taxpayers? In the first graph, we see that the share of the United States is 70.5%, and that the top ten contributors make up 95.0% of all military expenditure. That is, the United States contributes 70% of all NATO defense dollars, while the next nine states contribute 25%. The other twenty member states of NATO contribute a meager and forgettable 5 percent of all expenses.

In the second graph, we see this spending for 2020 expressed in constant 2019 dollars. (I left out the United States to give a better idea of ​​the scale.) Most NATO members spend defense totals that constitute a tiny fraction of US spending – which totaled $766 billion in 2020. The second biggest spender – the UK – accounted for less than a tenth of US spending, at $58.4 billion of dollars. Estonia, meanwhile, where a majority of lawmakers are calling on the rest of NATO to impose a no-fly zone, has spent less than $1 billion.

Certainly, of course, it is unreasonable to expect a NATO member like Latvia or even Hungary to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on military personnel and equipment. They are simply too small. But even when military spending is measured as a percentage of GDP, it’s clear that these countries are counting on someone else to foot the bulk of the bill.

By this measure, the United States still spends the most at 3.7% of GDP. Yet no other NATO member exceeds 3% and, at least in 2020, eighteen members spent less than 2.0% of GDP on defence.

In emphasizing this, I am not congratulating the American regime for spending huge sums of taxpayers’ wealth on the Pentagon. Indeed, military spending in the United States is absurdly inflated. Much of this spending is claimed to be necessary on the grounds that the United States must “defend” Europe – and therefore continue to allow European regimes to milk American taxpayers, year after year. Nor do I claim that the United States diet is a victim here. The regime in Washington clearly benefits from this status quo since it ensures that Washington retains enormous geopolitical power and well-funded military institutions. Rather, it is the American taxpayer who suffers in this corrupt bargain between Washington’s elites and European regimes.

So if the European regimes are ever to stop being queens of the world’s welfare – mopping up the hard work of America’s productive population – the American regime will have to be starved of defense dollars until the European regimes are forced to leave to justify the cost of military defense to their own taxpayers. As I have pointed out here, mid-sized European states have more than enough wealth and military potential to deal with a second-rate power like Russia. American taxpayers, on the other hand, deserve a break from scamming Europe.

*About the author: Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is an editor at the Mises Institute. Send him your article submissions for the Wire updates and Power and market, but read the instructions in the article first. Ryan holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in public policy and international relations from the University of Colorado. He was a housing economist for the state of Colorado. He is the author of Cowboys Cocos: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.

Source: This article was published by the MISES Institute