Please see below questions to which your video might respond. These questions are intended to help teams begin the process of researching and writing their videos. Videos do not have to respond to all of these questions and students are encouraged to develop their own prompts. Videos will be judged based on the overall quality of thestudent scholarship and arguments presented in light of the 30 minutes time limit on videos.
Do you believe that the Russian threat will spur all Allies to live by the quantitative and qualitative commitment that they made at the Wales Summit with respect to their defense spending? Or would you rather argue that even the Wales language remains primarily “cosmetic”, i.e. that all the Crimea crisis achieved was merely to increase the reputational costs for “free-riders” of being “named and shamed”, until such time as this short-lived spotlight subsides and they can revert to old “underspending” habits?
"Doing more with less”? Economics of the 2% commitment
(a) Do you agree that the legacy of the great recession counter-intuitively might bring about “smarter” collective defense policies among the Allies, if it “focuses the mind” on the urgency of “doing more with less”? In other words, do you subscribe to the (apocryphal) Churchill quote: “We have run out of money, now we have to start thinking”? Or would you rather argue that NATO Allies are more likely to “do less with less” if their defense spending doesn’t increase?
(b) Specifically, to what extent do you trust that NATO’s “Smart Defense” policy can actually make up for low defense budgets, in light of the high-political, financial, and operational issues that the concept raises?
(c) Does the evidence confirm that (some) Allies are facing a politically-sensitive zero-sum game dilemma between sustaining social safety nets vs. spending 2% of their GDP on defense? Or is this merely an “excuse” on the part of “free-riders”?
In pushing back against the “tyranny of the 2% threshold”, can European Allies credibly claim that:
(a) The U.S.’ outsized defense expenditures have been driven by the mistaken pursuit of a technology-obsessed “Revolution in Military Affairs” (due to the U.S. military-industrial lobby’s self-interested prioritization of “big-ticket” procurement programs), which showed its limits in Iraq and Afghanistan;
(b) European militaries, conversely, can remain effective at a lower level of technological prowess (implying lesser budgetary demands), through less sophisticated yet “sturdy” military tools that “get the job done just fine”?
(c) Europe’s non-military European contributions to the defense of the Euro-Atlantic area are “just as useful” as increased hard security capabilities would be?
Do you accept the arguments that:
(a) The U.S. chooses to dedicate the resources that it does towards defense (i.e. its defense spending is hardly “an imposition”), and disproportionately benefits from its European hegemony as enshrined by NATO – so that U.S. complaints regarding free-riding and article 5 are disingenuous?
(b) NATO structurally/inevitably causes European free-riding – if NATO has been successful precisely because U.S. military capacities are so superior to Europe’s that the U.S.’ security guarantee is all that the European Allies need to feel secure (i.e. they can “take it easy” with their own defense spending): in which case U.S. complaints regarding free-riding and article 5 are pointless?
(a) Is Donald Trump’s case against the nexus of “free riding” and article 5 a “game-changer”, i.e. qualitatively new in the long history of U.S. grievances regarding Europe’s underinvestment in its own defense (in which case “all bets are off” vis-à-vis the U.S.’ commitment to article 5)? Or does it amount to conventional U.S. talking points now simply ‘on steroids’?”
(b) Do you find that the Trump approach (i.e. both the “loudness” of his critique, and the “good-cop/bad-cop” uncertainty caused by his administration’s conflicting pronouncements on NATO) is more likely to provide a breakthrough vis-à-vis free-riding behaviors and therefore salvage article 5 in the long run – or rather to “break NATO” by “pushing too hard”?
(c) In particular, what role to you ascribe respectively to Trump’s pressure vs. the reemergence of the Russian threat in explaining the recent uptick in the Allies’ defense spending (in other words: is this uptick dependent on the former)?
(d) Are you concerned that current economic tensions between the U.S. and Europe (i.e. Trump’s threat of imposing tariffs) will “jump policy fields” and end up “contaminating” NATO dynamics on burden-sharing, i.e. will make it less likely that Europeans abide by the “2%”?