NATO without the USA – Trump’s plans and what happens if they come true

Without the USA, the Europeans are militarily helpless. Europe alone cannot defend itself for years to come – the gaps left by the USA would be too great.

Donald Trump has always had a bad reputation with his European allies. For him, like ironically for Beijing and Moscow, “Old Europe” is a continent in decline. That draws on its former greatness, but will not shape the future, because that will take place in the Indo-Pacific region. For the USA, the confrontation with China is crucial. The question of whether Beijing can draw Pacific states into its camp is far more threatening to Washington than the fate of Donbass or the Baltic states.

What’s more, Europeans stubbornly refuse to do enough to defend themselves. The mentality was and continues to be: When the going gets tough, the Americans have to do it. This is what the Trump mantra of states not paying their bills is aimed at. Trump is petty: He doesn’t just look at the current budget, he adds up the failures of the past.

He primarily has Germany in mind. Trump should also not be unaware of the fact that many European states support Ukraine primarily verbally, but lack money and weapons. No one can predict whether Donald Trump, if he becomes president again, will just apply a lot of pressure or whether he will actually leave NATO. Given his unpredictable temperament, the latter is not out of the question. Especially because Trump has an ace up his sleeve.

Where would the Europeans be without US armed forces?

So the question is: What would happen if the US left the alliance and left the Europeans to their fate? If the USA were to withdraw completely at short notice, the alliance would be paralyzed. One can debate whether and when the Europeans can replace the gap left by the USA, but in the short term it is not possible.

This is most evident in the nuclear “balance of terror” – Britain and France’s nuclear weapons stockpiles are no counterweight to Russia’s arsenal. Here the Western Europeans would be hopelessly inferior. If Putin were to use nuclear weapons but avoid targets in Great Britain and France, their governments could not be responsible for a nuclear counterattack. Russia could also attempt to eliminate Europe’s nuclear arsenal with a massive first strike.

Without the USA, Europe would not be capable of war

The Europeans would not be capable of war when it comes to enlightenment. Without the US military satellites, reconnaissance drones and intelligence services, they would be largely blind and deaf. In the event of war, the all-powerful US Navy is supposed to keep the sea routes and the Atlantic clear. Russian submarines would be a threat, but they could not dominate the sea. The Europeans alone would have great difficulty keeping the Atlantic free. There is a risk that the whole of Europe will be cut off from world trade. Also because the European merchant fleets are no longer as large as they were in the Second World War. At that time, civilian sailors had to make the dangerous journey across the Atlantic, something that cannot simply be ordered to the Chinese and Koreans today.

When it comes to conventional forces on land and in the air, the USA makes the difference. Added together, the Europeans offer a quite impressive military force. However, it is fragmented into many armed forces and different structures. In many categories, the United States is as strong as all the Europeans combined, and its troops are generally better equipped and trained. Example main battle tanks, Main Battle Tanks. The USA has 5,500 units, Germany, UK, France and Italy together have just over 900.

Of course you can add the stocks of Turkey (2200) and Greece (1400), but these are mostly hopelessly outdated models. The situation is similar with almost every large appliance. When it comes to long-range weapons that are crucial to war, such as cruise missiles, glide bombs and ballistic missiles, the ratio is even more unequal. During the bombing of Libya, the Europeans ran out of ammunition after just a few days. There is also a political factor. Should a conflict arise between Russia and the rest of NATO, it would be naive to believe that all countries would stand together in this dangerous fight. There is a risk that the alliance will collapse and states will not take part in combat operations.

Upgrading requires a lot of money

Now it’s not like Putin’s military is in top shape. Without US support, Kiev will certainly lose the war, but the Russian bear would first have to digest the fight and the spoils. So the Europeans would have some time to rearm and build a military force without US involvement. But that would take years, sometimes decades, and be very, very expensive.

There is a price tag attached to the US’s current contribution; this sum must be distributed among the Europeans. Then you’re not talking about two percent of GDP for the military, but about four to five. More so in the development phase. Against the background of only modest economic growth, support from the population would be anything but certain. Even measures such as the reintroduction of compulsory military service are controversial. To do this, the Europeans would have to give up all global ambitions. The task of defending the actual alliance territory is enormous, and you won’t be able to play world police at the same time.

Without NATO, but not without Europe

But the whole “Europe without the USA” scenario is unrealistic. If Trump were to leave NATO, he would not have to and would not leave Europe. Even if the old continent has lost its former importance, the USA will not allow the western European tip to fall completely under Chinese and Russian influence. Trump would not only leave NATO, he would send it to the dustbin of history, so to speak. However – and this is his ace up his sleeve: Trump would immediately set up a new alliance alongside the old NATO and repeat the US security guarantees for the states in his new club.

All countries would then have to consider who will really protect them in an emergency – Berlin or Washington? New rules of the game then apply in this alliance. The old braids of the post-war period are being cut off. The USA would be the absolute boss. The “loyal” and willing states would be welcome in the Trump alliance. For example Poland, Finland and the Baltic states. Trump orders, they obey. From Trump’s point of view, a super win: The USA would no longer allow itself to be danced on its face by countries like Germany, which want to have a say everywhere, always raise concerns and at the same time save money on their military. The old NATO will then die or continue to exist without meaning, and the USA will put the European countries on a short leash.