Since his arrival at the White House, President Donald Trump has repeatedly emphasized the need for NATO allies to increase their defense budgets in order to comply with previous agreements. According to the latest official data, the president’s efforts are bearing fruit.
In 2016, NATO members spent $262 billion on defense; by the end of 2020, they will have invested $313 billion, that is, $51 billion more.
It should be noted that the $51 billion represents only one year. According to Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg, the European countries and Canada have increased their defense budgets by $130 billion in the last four years.
In 2006, NATO established that member states should spend 2% of the gross domestic product (GDP) on defense.
Eight years later, at the Wales Summit, the member states again committed themselves to spending 2% of the GDP on defense. They also said that they would invest 20% of their defense budgets in purchases of “major equipment” by 2024.
However, in 2016, only four NATO members (including the United States) met that benchmark, and only nine spent 20% of defense budgets on equipment purchases.
That is why President Trump emphasized several times that the U.S. allies should achieve this common goal, and he has been especially critical of Germany.
“Germany is delinquent. They haven’t paid their fees. They haven’t paid their NATO fees. And they’re way off, and they’ve been off for years, and they have no intention of paying it,” the president said in July after it was announced that the United States would withdraw 12,000 soldiers from Germany.
“The United States has been taken advantage of on trade and on the military and on everything else for many years, and I’m here and I’ve been straightening it out,” he said.
Indeed, pressure from President Trump seems to have had an effect, as last week NATO announced that this year 10 countries will spend at least 2% of GDP on defense: Estonia (2.38%), France (2.11%), Greece (2.58%), Latvia (2.32%), Lithuania (2.28%), Norway (2.03%), Poland (2.30%), Romania (2.38%), United Kingdom (2.43%) and the United States (3.87%).
In addition, 16 NATO allies will spend 20% of their defense budgets on “major new capabilities.”
“It is possible for the U.S. to remain entirely committed to NATO’s collective defense and encourage allies to increase defense spending to boost readiness and fund much-needed capabilities,” explained analyst Daniel Kochis looking to the future.
In a Nov. 2 column in the Daily Signal, the senior policy analyst for European affairs at the Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom describes how the work done by the Trump administration has laid a foundation for all allies to fulfill their commitment.
“More work needs to be done, but NATO’s recent data shows a continuance of defense reinvestment for some allies. Hopefully, this trend will continue in 2021,” he concluded.