Who are “key allies?”

Over at Duck of Minevera Phil Arena has a piece discussing information failure and the possible outbreak of war under a Trump presidency.


He writes…

…Trump’s electoral victory is so alarming. Trump has famously questioned what the US is getting out of its military presence in South Korea and Japan and indicated that the US should no longer serve as the world’s policeman (source). He has expressed admiration for Putin and indicated that Russia’s actions in Ukraine are legitimate – when he’s acknowledged that they’re even occurring (source). One could hardly blame Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong-un for thinking that the United States would not respond if they chose to attack traditional US allies in the Baltics or South Korea.


The bold text is original.

he concludes with…

As horrifying as the prospect of a return to warfare on a scale not seen in decades is, I cannot hope for the abandonment of key allies. That is why I am so troubled; if Putin and Kim respond to Trump’s comments the way leaders have often responded when the US signaled that it was unwilling to check aggression, there is no best case scenario.

My issue with his post is that he doesn’t want to “abandon key allies.”

We have almost 30k troops in South Korea so I don’t expect the scenario described to occur in Asia. And either way, I actually lean towards supporting the American hub and spoke alliance system of the Far East as it dampens the security dilemma. There are probably too many historical grievances in Asia to allow for multipolarity to emerge.

But what about Europe?

What exactly is a “key ally” in this region? Like everyone else, I’ve written about the lack of military spending by those the United States is obligated to protect. It’s a standard post and you can read it here. But look at this lineup of “key allies” I pulled from wikipieda. You can sort them into basically three different groups. (1) Most are utterly meaningless for American security. Does anyone think that if Russia annexed Slovenia and Slovakia that this means anything for the defense of American sovereignty? (2) Some are actually not just meaningless but pose a serious threat to American interests and, in a rare but worst case scenario, could drag us into conflict. Turkey is an obvious example. The last group (3) can actually defend themselves and are free riding. This includes states such as Germany, and France.

Military personnel[edit]

Country Active personnel Reserve personnel Total
 Albania 100,500 5,000 105,500
 Belgium 24,500 100,500 125,000
 Bulgaria 46,712 302,500 349,212
 Canada 68,000 27,000 95,000
 Croatia 18,000 180,000 198,000
 Czech Republic 21,057 2,359 23,416
 Denmark 20,003 63,000 78,000
 Estonia 3,209 60,000 63,209
 France 222,215 100,000 322,215
 Germany 180,676 145,000 325,676
 Greece 180,000 280,000 460,000
 Hungary 29,700 8400 38,100
 Iceland 210 170 380
 Italy 180,000 41,867 220,867
 Latvia 6,000 11,000 17,000
 Lithuania 15,839 4,550 20,389
 Luxembourg 1,057 278 1,335
 Netherlands 47,660 57,200 104,860
 Norway 26,200 56,200 82,400
 Poland 120,000 515,000 635,000
 Portugal 44,900 210,930 255,830
 Romania 73,350 79,900 153,250
 Slovakia 16,000 16,000
 Slovenia 7,300 1,500 8,801
 Spain 123,000 16,200 139,200
 Turkey 620,473 429,000 1,041,900
 United Kingdom 205,851 181,720 387,571
 United States 1,369,532 850,880 2,220,412
 NATO 3,585,000 3,745,000 7,330,000

The United States has far too much “free security” offered by two oceans to consider NATO essential to its security. My suspicion is that the US insists on maintaining NATO because being the “leader of the free world” is a public good. NATO doesn’t have any real meaning for America outside of generating pride for the uninformed. Either way, we shouldn’t refer to any of these countries as allies but dependents. An ally helps pursue the national interests and I’m not sure what interests any of these “allies” help us pursue.

2 Replies to “Who are “key allies?””

  1. Not to discourage you from starting a new blog, but I find this post rather bizarre and naive. In a (hopefully unlikely) scenario where Russia successfully invades Western Europe, do you truly think the western governance system led by the USA would not collapse, with dire consequences on the US economy (and politics)? If all the banking and trade stops, if Russia gets access to European hi-tech and resources (not to mention nuclear weapons), can you seriously state this is not key to the interests and security of the United States? Have you even been to Europe???

    As for Eastern Europe, you’re right that economically and politically this could seem less important. However, do you, again, seriously think that even the neuteured EU would be OK with Russia invading one of its members? I agree there would be the temptation to just let it go, but ultimately this would not be possible.
    I do agree that, in a realistic IR view where the one with the bigger guns always wins, Europe (and particularly Western Europe) could be expected to play a bigger part in NATO via better funding of their military. At the same time, the continued existence of a large military force in peacetime is almost exclusive to the USA in the contemporary world (if one excepts North Korea perhaps). Instead of asking why France or Germany don’t maintain a big military, it could well be asked why the US doesn’t maintain a small one. A relative superiority is one thing, but what can be argued for the maintenance of such an arsenal? When you have more and better kit than everyone else, why spend so much money getting even more and even better?

    1. Thanks for the comment Wouarnud.

      I think we agree that it is not in the United States strategic interest to see Russia conquer western Europe. It is also not in our interest to see Russia invade eastern Europe but what consequences that may have for American security are debatable.

      What I am suggesting is that there are two things that can stop Russia from marching into Germany. The United States. Or Germany. I don’t see why the United States should be doing this when Germany is very well capable of doing it themselves; keep in mind that they have by most accounts the worlds 4th largest economy.

      If Russia invading western Europe is a serious possibility, I assume that you agree that Germany should probably be spending more than 1.2 percent of their GDP on defense?

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