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Be It Clinton or Trump, Europe Must Get Ready to Arm Itself

© Samuel King Jr./ for U.S. Air ForceAn F-35 being refueled at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
An F-35 being refueled at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. - Sputnik International
With the ongoing NATO summit in focus, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg lauded Copenhagen for buying expensive US fighter jets, yet reprimanded Denmark alongside other European NATO members for spending too little on defense. Whoever wins the US presidential election will put pressure on Europe to step up its defense expenditure.

Giant icebergs float in the fjord in Narsaq, southern Greenland. - Sputnik International
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Two years ago, during the previous NATO summit in Wales, NATO countries were urged to stop defense cuts and start to invest more amid "deteriorating security picture." According to NATO bosses, this must change in order to be able to deter Russia and handle Europe's unstable neighborhood.

As one would expect, the United States is the main driver for increased defense expenditure. Today, the US' defense expenditure exceeds that of European NATO countries' three times. Therefore, Washington has been consequently pushing its European allies to shoulder a greater share of the burden. The pressure is only expected to increase, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election. Regardless of who takes over the Oval Office in early 2017, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Europeans will have no quarter, the Danish newspaper Berlingske pointed out.

"Every time I'm on Capitol Hill in Washington, representatives of both parties and presidential candidates make it very clear that it is not tenable that the US bears such a disproportionate part of the burden. For Americans, it is unfathomable that they should borrow money to pay for the protection of European countries which contribute significantly less. And I concur," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Danish newspaper Berlingske.

This picture shows the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland, on July 7, 2016, the venue of the upcoming NATO summit - Sputnik International
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The universal complaint that the two-percent level is too rigid, which says nothing about the countries' real contribution to NATO, is lost on Stoltenberg. Ironically, Norway's former prime minister was himself responsible for drastic defense cuts during his tenure in the 1990s. Norway's defense outlay run as high as three percent of the GDP during the Cold War years, but then gradually subsided, until NATO reinvented Russia as its new sworn enemy.

"But when tensions rise, we must be able to increase defense spending," Stoltenberg said, citing NATO's ability to ward off "aggressive and dangerous" Russia, terrorist threats and the instability in Europe's neighborhood. "This is not for free, it's going to cost," he added.

On the positive end, Denmark's decision to buy expensive US-made aircraft brought a smile to Stoltenberg's face.

"We are very pleased with the F-35 aircraft Denmark now has decided to invest in. It is good for Denmark and good for NATO, since it means that Denmark can contribute to future operations and collective defense," Stoltenberg said, calling the F-35 a "modern aircraft that can handle extreme challenges."

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Regardless of this, Denmark was once again strenuously urged to double its defense outlay. According to fresh calculations, Danish defense expenditure after a marginal increase is expected to land at 1.17 percent of GDP in 2016, after a marginal increase this year. This is still a far cry from the two percent goal, and a doubling of the Danish defense spending is just very difficult to imagine. As expected, Denmark is not the only one lagging behind. On average, European NATO members are expected to spend 1.46 percent of their GDP on defense this year.

In fact, only Britain, Poland, Greece and Estonia live up to NATO's demands of all the European member states. Without a marked increase in defense expenditure, the US might begin to twist the arms of its European allies with a quid pro quo policy.

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