Donald Trump has let it be known (in an interview with the NY Times) that he is not exactly a fan of NATO and he thinks its members have been given a free ride for too long.
Well, finally something I can speak of with first-hand knowledge. I served in NATO as a U.S. Army enlisted man for about two and a half years in Germany (1968-71).
It always seemed like a waste of money and resources to me, although why should I complain? It kept me out of Vietnam. I didn’t have to be a draft dodger.
At the post where I was stationed it was definitely an American show. Our troops and equipment far outnumbered the Germans. On the other hand, it always appeared to me that the Germans at least looked more efficient and field ready. I don’t recall seeing any French troops, except one time a French officer met with one of ours to interpret what the Germans were telling us over the radio. Our officer did not speak German but he spoke French (actually I think he was an officer in training from West Point). Anyway, the message was for us to get our tanks the heck out there because we were down range on a missile firing range. We moved out smartly and very quickly. I think that might have been our finest moment.
Our tanks were always breaking down. Once we had a readiness test — an alert we called them. Out of several hundred tanks only a handful left the tank park. Our diesel-powered tanks were hard to start in the winter.
One of the problems with maintenance was that most of the resources, and rightfully so, were being targeted for Vietnam.
I suppose, however, we did serve as a deterrent to the Soviet bloc in East Europe invading Western Europe.
But while the U.S. has spent billions and billions of dollars over the decade to defend Western Europe and Asia, many member countries have been able to skimp on their own defense budgets and spend it on their economies, and now they threaten our own economy with their exports to us and the imbalance of trade between us.
Maybe the whole idea of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should be revisited.
I am a little curious about Trump’s remarks that he would not automatically go to the military assist of NATO members before reviewing their contributions. I mean does he mean that we would be a mercenary force for them?