In the aftermath of Trump’s visit to Brussels one dynamic has been overlooked.  It starts with a basic reality of NATO: when there is a mission, countries are not obligated to hand over military units for the effort.  Instead, what happens is this (see chapter two of Dave and Steve’s book), as one officer told us that “force generation is begging:”

  1. The officers at the NATO military headquarters in Mons, Belgium, along with the relevant regional command come up with a spreadsheet.  Yes, an excel spreadsheet called the Combined Joint Statement of Requirements.  The CJSOR is a list of all of the different things that are needed from military police units to infantry battalions to airport logistics units and on and on.  It gets very specific.  A key point to keep in mind–the CJSOR for the Stabilization Force (SFOR) in Bosnia was incomplete in 2001 when I was on the Joint Staff–six years after the mission started in a rather safe place.  Anyway, coming up with the requirements is first step
  2. This HQ has a force generation conference where representatives of each NATO country and even some partners attend and volunteer for various assignments.  This may provide the bulk of the forces needed.  However, it is never sufficient.
  3. So, the senior officers at NATO HQ in Mons start calling up their equivalents in NATO countries and ask for more contributions.
  4. When that falls short, things move up so the Deputy Supreme Commander of Europe [DSACEUR] starts calling around to the highest military officers in NATO countries.
  5. When that falls short, SACEUR and the Secretary General calls the heads of the respective militaries and their ministers of defense.
  6. When that falls short, the President of the United States calls his counterparts and cajoles, leans, persuades, etc.

A complication in all of this: each NATO country has its own decision process for deploying troops, some requiring votes in parliament, some not.  But most of these countries have coalition governments, and all of the leaders have domestic audiences to worry about.  So, they need to sell the mission, and if it is a US initiative (most of the time), then the mission becomes easier or harder to sell depending on who the US President is.  Afghanistan got harder to sell after Iraq in 2003.  It got easier to sell when George W. Bush, unpopular in Europe/Canada, got replaced by Barak Obama who was and remains very popular (see any pictures of the event in Berlin today?).

So after being chastised by Trump today, how many of these leaders would try to sell a NATO mission to their publics who revile Donald Trump?  How many of these leaders can sell a NATO mission to their parties and to other parties now?  Damned few, I would think.