The EU Is the Military Ally the United States Needs

Take the Pressure Off of NATO States and Embrace the Union’s Defense

Tensions over anemic European defense spending have long suffused transatlantic relations—and since 2014, they have become all-consuming, crowding out other priorities, straining the alliance, and leading to exasperation on both sides of the Atlantic. U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly berated NATO allies for failing to invest more in their militaries, and at big transatlantic gatherings, the issue is the elephant in the room.

President-elect Joe Biden, a committed transatlanticist, will undoubtedly take a less strident tone than his predecessor has done on this issue. But the elephant will still be there, because the European pillar of NATO really is in a sorry state that undermines the alliance’s credibility. The United States does need more from Europe on defense—but the United States also needs to recognize that simply pressing  individual member states to increase their spending is just not working.

The  European Union has a role to play in the common defense that the United States has long ignored. In fact, the United States has thus far scorned the EU’s defense ambitions and viewed the union as a competitor to NATO. Such an approach serves only to weaken both NATO and the EU, and the incoming Biden administration should reverse it.

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