There is also a risk of getting what one wishes for. U.S. leaders have singled out Germany for opprobrium: its defense spending is only 1.2 percent of GDP. Lost in translation is that if Germany did meet the 2 percent target, it would then have the world’s third largest military (after the United States and China and well ahead of all other allies and even Russia). This would not be reassuring to any of Germany’s neighbors, however much the old “German problem” has been laid to rest. Already, some commentators are trying to resurrect it, ignoring that Germany is surrounded by other NATO allies and EU members, as well as being firmly anchored in both institutions, and the Euro has replaced the Deutschmark.
The Europeans don’t spend much on their militaries because since 1945 they are all under Washington hegemony. Therefore the competition and conflict between them is dampended, and likewise since 1956 the US no longer permits them to interefere militarily around the world on their own in the way the US does (with the partial exception for traditionally headstrong France in its own former African colonies).
So then seeing they no longer need large militaries to defend from one another, and can’t use them to run havoc around the globe as they used to, the Europeans no longer need, or have a use for potent militaries. The only use for their militaries these days is as auxiliary forces for the American Empire, to back up the US in its adventures like in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, understandably the Europeans are not eager too spend a lot on that, but are happy to send only token forces.
Of course, theoretically the Americans would want the Europeans to maintain larger militaries and be able to back up the American occupations with larger forces, however, what superficial analysis fail to take into account that a much more militarized Europe would no longer necessarily pay fealty to the US.
The EU taken together has an economy not smaller than the US. Once Germany, France and Italy are investing $80bn, $60bn and $50bn into their militaries respectively, and the EU combined is spending $400bn the likely effect won’t be that Europeans will be backing the US with more auxiliary forces — the more likely effect will be that they will carve out more independence from the US, and skip out on more American expeditions.