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CGD in the News

The Coming Split in NATO (The Atlantic)

July 12, 2018

One of President Donald Trump’s chief complaints about America’s European allies is that they don’t spend nearly enough on defense; he has again raised the issue on Wednesday at the nato summit. Granted, Trump is hardly the first American president to point to miserly military spending on the part of fellow nato member states. This has been a sore spot in transatlantic relations since at least the 1970s. But the vociferousness of his complaints, and his transactional approach to alliances writ large, appears to have had an effect all the same. European powers are thinking harder about how to build their military strength and how they might use it in concert, even in—especially in—cases where the United States won’t be there to lend a hand. 

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Yet the alternatives to opening Europe’s borders will be daunting in their own right. Last year, researchers at the Center for Global Development released a working paper on the prospects for manufacturing in Africa, and their findings were sobering. With the important exception of Ethiopia, they found that industrial labor costs in most African states were far higher than one would expect when judging by their overall level of development. The upshot is that while export-oriented manufacturing has greatly reduced poverty in much of East Asia, Ethiopia might be the only country in sub-Saharan Africa suited to that development path. Other African states will have to make use of their labor abundance in other ways—for example, by developing their tourism sectors and by transforming themselves into destinations for wealthy expatriates. In other words, either Africans will come to Europe in search of employment, and Europeans will remake their societies to accommodate them, or Europeans will come to thriving African states in search of a higher quality of life, fueling the expansion of the local service-sector workforce in the process. 

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Photo of Alan Gelb
Senior Fellow and Director of Studies
Senior Fellow