The Real Reason E.U. Leaders Hate Trump

They can’t afford bloated social services and strong militaries.

What’s happening: Donald Trump recently announced that he wouldn’t defend NATO allies who don’t commit to spending at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense, and that he would encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” in that situation.

  • E.U. response: European leaders reacted with fury; one remarked that Trump’s comments were “incomprehensible,” and another commented that they served “only Putin’s interest.”

Why it matters: Trump’s campaign looks like it could beat Biden’s in November, which has NATO members — mostly Europeans — worried because most do not spend 2 percent on defense. Doing so would require that E.U. establishments cut social services, an extremely unpopular proposition politically.

Priorities: Some E.U. states must choose between social services or defense. The U.S. can afford both; even if its military budget was reduced by half, it would still be the largest in the world by almost $200 billion. But as most European states spend immense sums on social services and minimal funds on military, if their militaries were reduced by half, they would all but disappear.

  • All tapped out: Europe’s taxes are significantly higher than America’s. Example: in soon-to-be NATO member state Sweden — which spends only 1.3 percent of GDP on defense — a salary of $51,000 nets only $26,000.

Zoom out: Trump is very unpopular among European politicos. If given a choice between being honest with constituents or bashing Trump, they’re choosing the latter option until November, when they hope Biden will win.