How to get other NATO members to meet the 2 percent defense spending threshold
Although generic in name, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has a specific purpose and that is to defend Europe from Russian aggression. Membership has expanded dramatically over the years and now consists of twenty eight states including Turkey. The mutual defense pact sets few requirements, but one of the most important is that member nations spend two percent of their gross domestic product on defense. For decades, nearly every NATO nation has failed to meet the bar and relied on the United States. President Trump wants to put an end to that and see that these countries pay their fair share for the defense obligation their membership creates.
As a mutual defense pact, the United States is obligated to come to the defense of any of the member nations should they be attacked. If Russia decided to invade Estonia our military would be obligated to respond. In order to reduce the burden placed on one single nation, a guideline was set to encourage each nation to spend two percent of their GDP on defense. This spreads out the responsibility with the end goal being that each nation should be able to defend itself on its own. Unfortunately, this is not a requirement, and there are no enforcement mechanisms. As a result, all but a handful of NATO members abide.
The United States has taken those nations’ failures in stride and shouldered the burden for decades but we simply can’t afford to do so any longer. Our country is $20 trillion in debt. It’s not right to increase the debt ceiling so we can subsidize the defense of rich European countries. Nor is it right to increase taxes to pay for more defense spending. The United States must more forcefully demand that NATO members begin to meet the two percent guideline. It’s past time that they start paying for their fair share.
There is a simple solution to this problem. The NATO members who aren’t meeting the target are only doing so because they know the U.S. will continue to spend more to subsidize them. The only way to ensure that these countries take these demands seriously is to cut our own military spending. The United States should develop a schedule wherein for each year deficient NATO members do not increase their defense spending by 0.1 percent of their GDP (to meet the 2 percent requirement) our defense spending will decrease by 0.1 percent of our GDP. The longer they refuse to meet the 2 percent guideline, the less they’ll be able to rely on the United States.
Anything short of this won’t be taken seriously. If the U.S. means business, and actually wants NATO nations to pay their fair share, decreasing our own military spending is the only way to ensure compliance.
(White House photograph of President Donald Trump’s arrival in Belgium.)