Defense Spending in Europe

I mentioned this yesterday, but I think it’s worth emphasizing that contrary to the widespread impression of Europe as a demilitarized continent gripped by pacifism, Europe is in fact extremely militarily capable compared to anyone other than the United States of America. As this chart from Chris Preble makes clear, Europe isn’t disinvisting in military capabilities, the United States is just rushing ahead with massive defense spending for unclear reasons:

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I don’t think it’s all that plausible to read this as either Europe spending too little or as Europe “free riding” on American defense spending. There’s not some threat that, in the absence of American commitments, would suddenly be on the verge of overwhelming Europe. Of course in an organizational sense if the United States weren’t so involved in European defense affairs via NATO there would be a need for European nations to work out some kind of cooperative framework of their own. But it’s not like we’re staving off an imminent invasion of Portugal or that Denmark has stopped spending money on its military.