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Ensure Alliance Commitments Advance American Interests

The Issue

America’s alliance relationships must be a means for advancing U.S. interests, not simply ends in themselves. The United States should maintain friendly relations and cooperate with our partners and formal allies alike, while recognizing the difference in our obligations to each and clearly defining where U.S. interests overlap and where they do not.

The United States has treaty commitments to defend a quarter of the world’s nations—over 1.4 billion people and more than four times America’s population. Amid growing economic constraints at home and rising multipolarity abroad, the U.S. will be increasingly overextended if it attempts to maintain its current footprint simultaneously across the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. Fortunately, our wealthy European allies are well-placed to take a greater role in their own security if they are not discouraged from doing so by U.S. policy choices. Given its existing obligations, America should avoid permanent new security commitments; particularly those that substantially increase the risk of conflict with nuclear-armed adversaries.

Policy Solutions

PROMOTE EUROPEAN BURDEN-SHIFTING | Our European allies are wealthy and capable enough to afford to secure themselves against a Russia weakened by fierce Ukrainian resistance. Instead, substantial U.S deployments in Europe encourage allies like Germany to underinvest in their defense and pass the buck for their own regional security to U.S. troops and taxpayers. When limited U.S. assets and munitions are unnecessarily deployed to Europe, greater interests in Asia and elsewhere suffer.

AVOID RISKY PERMANENT SECURITY COMMITMENTS | America is already overstretched and currently suffering from rapidly depleting stockpiles of crucial munitions as it continues to aid Ukraine on an open-ended basis. The United States is not prepared for a major war and should avoid decisions that make one more likely.

TRANSPARENCY IN ALLIED BURDEN SHARING | Until 2004, Congress required the Department of Defense to submit annual allied burden sharing reports. These documents outlined what U.S. allies were spending on their own security as well as their defense capabilities investments.

TRANSFORM AMERICA’S ROLE IN NATO | The U.S. should continue close cooperation and maintain good relations with its European allies, while encouraging them to assume the primary burden for their own security. This will benefit both American and European security interests in the long-term. European capacity to deter a weakened Russia will free up U.S. resources better used elsewhere, such as in Asia.