Our North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies have been ripping off America in trade while also relying on American taxpayers to pay their defense bills for decades. President Trump’s pressure on them to pay their fair share for defense is the right call and embodies his America First agenda.
“The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other Country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable,” President Donald Trump tweeted.
“On top of this the European Union has a Trade Surplus of $151 million with the United States, with big trade barriers on U.S. goods. NO!” he continued.
To say that most NATO member countries aren’t quite meeting their commitment to the alliance is an understatement.
In 2006, NATO countries agreed to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense and reaffirmed that agreement in 2014. While the United States spends over 3.5 percent of its GDP on defense, only five other countries — the United Kingdom, Estonia, Poland, Greece, and Romania — have ever met the 2 percent mark. In 2016, Germany spent less than 1.5 percent of its GDP on defense.
This is especially egregious considering Germany claims it needs protection from Putin — all the while buying large amounts of gas from Russia and, thus, helping fund the very potential and potent adversary. This is, in a word, insane.
Last year, the United States accounted for 51.1 percent of the combined GDP among all NATO countries and was responsible for a whopping 71.7 percent of its defense spending. This means the United States contributes more money to NATO than Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Canada and the United Kingdom combined.
President Trump has demanded our NATO allies live up to their promises since he took office, and it appears that he’s already producing results. “Everyone has agreed to substantially up their commitment. They’re going to up it at levels that they never thought of before,” Trump said this week.
It’s about time, too. For decades, American leadership — and money — have protected NATO countries from Soviet aggression. The Soviet Union may be dissolved, but the 21st Century challenges of Islamic terror and asymmetric warfare still necessitate this successful alliance.
NATO proved to be an effective deterrent during the Cold War – it must return to serve again as an effective deterrent.
Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s imperative. With every member country spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense, NATO will be far better equipped to meet today’s security threats. NATO member countries need to streamline and better coordinate on areas such as counterterrorism and intelligence sharing efforts, and cyber and strategic communications; and modernize their nuclear arsenals and submarine fleets. A modernized NATO 2.0 — ready for the 21st Century.
In calling out our NATO allies to pay their fair share, President Trump is sending a loud and clear message that America will no longer sit quietly and be taken advantage of by our friends.
This is why the president condemned the EU’s $151 billion trade surplus with the U.S. The failure of most NATO countries to meet their defense spending commitments is bad enough. That many are doing so while benefiting from unfair trade practices with is unacceptable.
President Trump is keeping America’s end of the bargain. It’s well past time for our NATO partners to share the burden. While other recent presidents have made this demand of NATO, President Trump will make sure they do honor this commitment — and do so for their own and NATO effectiveness as a real deterrent.
Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer is a retired senior intelligence operations officer who served more than 30 years with the U.S. Army.
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