Almost since the start of his campaign for the White House, President Donald Trump has consistently noted that U.S. allies fail to pay their “fair share” of the tremendous costs incurred to American taxpayers by the numerous military bases and troop deployments maintained in strategic locations around the globe.
This, despite those allied nations deriving for themselves considerable security benefits from the presence of U.S. military bases and troops on their soil, which, admittedly, often serve U.S. strategic interests just as much as the security interests of those particular allies, if not more so in some cases.
As such, it was recently reported by Bloomberg that the Trump administration has been considering a new foreign policy to rectify that apparent fiscal shortfall by requiring U.S. allies that host military installations and troops to pick up a larger share of the costs.
In fact, the plan — which is known as “Cost Plus 50” — would require that U.S. allied nations not only pick up the full cost incurred by hosting U.S. military bases and troops, but also pay a 50 percent premium for the “privilege” of favorable status and security that come along with the U.S. military presence in their nations.
The most likely to be impacted by such a policy would be nations such as Germany, Japan and South Korea, who for decades have enjoyed the peace and security brought about by the seemingly permanent presence of the U.S. military in large numbers, but who have neglected to shoulder much in the way of the costs of said bases and troop deployments.
For instance, Germany currently pays somewhere between 20 to 30 percent of the cost — about $1 billion annually — of the massive U.S. military presence in that nation, which once served as a Cold War bulwark against potential expansionism by the Soviet Union.
Of course, there is no longer a Soviet threat — despite media hyperventilation about Russia — and the U.S. presence in Germany has transformed into a sort of centralized base and headquarters to support U.S. military operations throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East, particularly via the Ramstein Air Base and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
However, while Germany may no longer face a direct threat to its sovereignty that the U.S. must help defend, that remains a real risk for other allies such as Japan and South Korea, among others, who rely on U.S. military bases and troops to guard against aggressive expansionism by the communist regime of China, or the ever-present threat of radical Islamism in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, as old allies like Germany balk at paying a bigger share of the cost of U.S. troops and bases, other allies including Poland have expressed that they would be more than happy to pick up the tab of a permanent U.S. military base and troop deployment within their borders.
Bloomberg reported that the “Cost Plus 50” idea had been floated during recent negotiations with South Korea, which hosts roughly 28,000 U.S. troops and accompanying military installations but were withdrawn when the demand threatened to end the negotiations altogether.
It was noted that this new idea is but one of several under consideration to get U.S. allies to shoulder more of the costs of the U.S. military presence around the world, and that the eventual final policy could be significantly less demanding.
One major fear held by some in the Defense and State departments is that demanding “Cost Plus 50” of U.S. allies could cause them to decide against hosting any U.S. troops or bases at all, which could prove detrimental to U.S. strategic interests.
However, it was also reported that the ongoing discussions of the potential policy included what was described as a “good behavior discount.” That could be used as leverage on certain allied nations in that, if they were to bring their policies more in line with those of the U.S., they would not be required to shoulder the full cost plus 50 percent of the U.S. military expenditures in their nation.
To be sure, this policy has yet to be — and may never be — fully implemented, but it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, given the president’s repeated complaints about the enormous costs of U.S. military excursions overseas.
Indeed, this potential demand that allies pick up the tab of the U.S. military presence on their soil is right in line with his repeated demand that North Atlantic Treaty Organization member nations meet the agreed-upon goal of defense spending, a goal too many of those nations had failed to reach in years past, leaving the U.S. taxpayers to shoulder a larger percentage of military costs.
Whether this “Cost Plus 50” policy is ever implemented, in part or in whole, remains to be seen. But one thing has been made clear just by its consideration: President Trump is looking out for American troops and taxpayers, and is tired of seeing them being taken advantage of by our allies who depend upon them for their own safety and security.