Trump and U.S. Alliances

From Burden-Sharing to Burden-Shedding

South Korean and U.S. marines during a drill in Pohang, South Korea, March 2016. Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS

The lackluster military spending of European countries has been a source of constant complaint for U.S. officials in recent years. Yet most of Washington’s demands for action have lacked credibility, since no U.S. administration has ever penalized a European state for slacking on defense. Instead, U.S. officials have typically sought to reassure allies, in Europe and elsewhere, that the United States would do whatever was necessary to protect them.

The United States’ allies fear that U.S. President Donald Trump may take a different course. Trump spared no criticism during his campaign for Washington’s partners in East Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, suggesting that some of the United States’ security commitments were obsolete and that foreign countries had been reaping the benefits of U.S. protection without providing much in return. Foreign observers variously worried that Trump might send allied states a bill for

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