John Block: Trump Trumps NATO

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

Before I focus on this week’s subject, I just want to say a few words about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Scott Pruitt led the EPA as President Trump’s “deregulator in chief.” He aggressively worked to get rid of the regulatory burden that was weighing on our economy and small businesses. I thank him for that. However, he buried himself in scandal and is now gone. As a corn farmer and supporter of ethanol, he won’t be missed. While being wedded to Big Oil, he was no help to the ethanol community.

Let’s focus on President Trump’s meeting this week with our North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies. At a recent rally in Montana, President Trump had this to say: “I’m going to tell NATO, you have to start paying your bills.” He told German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “Angela, you owe me one trillion dollars.”

Here is what that is all about. For 14 years, Germany, along with most of the other European countries covered and protected by NATO, have failed to pay what they had promised as their share – 2% of their GDP to finance NATO defenses. Germany is a rich country, but is paying only 1.24% of their GDP. The U.S. is paying 3.57% of our GDP. In 2014, only 3 NATO countries reached the 2% target – U.S., United Kingdom, and Greece. President Trump is right. It’s time the others step up to the plate. They have started. This year, the nations paying 2% of their GDP is expected to rise to 8.

Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg wrote this in the Wall Street Journal: “President Trump has been outspoken on this issue, and I thank him for his leadership. The upswing in NATO defense spending demonstrates that his efforts are making a difference. The NATO alliance of 29 countries represents half the world’s economic and military might.”

Here is what I have to say: The U.S. has the most powerful military in the world, but we should not be expected to do everything.

Finally, trade will also be on the agenda in London. Maybe we can make some progress there. We hope.

John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill. If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, visit

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