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Departing Europe

Written By: Doug Bandow  |  Posted: Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Since the formation of NATO more than sixty years ago the Europeans have scrimped on defense. With an essentially bankrupt continent desperately cutting back on government spending, Europe's military outlays will fall further. Washington's finances are equally bad: the United States also should cut military expenditures, especially for Europe. The transatlantic alliance was created in 1949 as relations with the Soviet Union grew frosty. The image of the Red Army pouring through the Fulda Gap fueled Western nightmares.

Nevertheless, NATO always stood for North (America) and the Others. In the alliance's early years the European members understandably concentrated on economic reconstruction. But they never stopped leaving the heavy military lifting to the United States. Washington regularly begged its allies to increase their defense outlays and they regularly agreed to do so. Then they just as regularly reneged, citing domestic needs and political obstacles. By the 1980s the Europeans actively opposed U.S. initiatives in Central America and elsewhere.

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