U.S.A. Speaking in Warsaw, Poland this Tuesday, Barack Obama announced his commitment to Europe by pledging $1 billion to increase US military troops, in response to supporting security concerns of NATO allies.

Obama will seek congressional backing for this “European Reassurance Initiative,” which include the rotation of US air and ground forces, hosting a range of training and exercise opportunities, and increasing naval operations to the Black and Baltic seas.

“Our commitment to Poland’s security as well as the security of our allies in central and eastern Europe is a cornerstone of our own security and is sacrosanct,” Obama said.

The increase in military and security support to Europe comes as a reaction from Russian provocations, such as the Ukraine crisis that demonstrated an aggressive and expansionist Russia.

A White House statement said: “We are reviewing our force presence in Europe in the light of the new security challenges on the continent.”

This support from the US to Europe demonstrates not only loyalty between allies, but is also indicative of a complicated military relationship between two world powers. As an undisputable hegemon, one of the obligations the US has taken is providing sufficient security to protect its allies. The increase of US military troops in European regions signifies the extreme military power of the US, as well as an increasingly dependent Europe.

With the largest and most advanced military in the world, the US has the ability to fight various wars at once, to deploy troops all over the world, and to coerce other international actors on the basis of this power alone. As a result, its closest ally—Western Europe—has an intriguing complex. On one hand, the close partnership of the two nations means Europe, with its meager military, can look to the US to provide security and protection. It also means, however, that Europe is at times at the mercy of the US. If Europe does not agree with aggressive international tactics pursued by the US, for example, and rather advocates for diplomatic measures, it is simply because Europe itself lacks the same hard power capabilities.

Though some deem military power as most telling of the strength of a nation, such a claim does not in actuality tell much about the well being of a nation or its people. While Europe does not boast such an expansive military as the US, it does however pride itself in its social programs that provide support for the welfare of its citizens. When viewing the strength of a nation through its social service programs, this lens captures the dramatic difference between the Europe and the US, with the US lagging behind profusely.

The alarming contrast in the spending on national defense compared to education or welfare programs demonstrates the priorities of the US government. Perhaps the main reason accounting for the difference between Europe and the US is that if Europe attempted to spend as much as the US does on defenses, its population would suffer an incredible blow as it would reduce the quality and expanse of social programs that benefit the nation.

Obama’s “European Reassurance Initiative” provides an opportunity to discuss and examine the differences between the US and Europe that account for a widening gap in priorities as well as perspectives between the two power. The questions it brings up put into question the role of the US as a global authority, as well as the implications of possessing the world’s largest military. The US is an incredible military strength, that is to be sure, but at what cost? 

— Nora Turriago