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

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