Trump Again Criticizes NATO Members Days Before Summit

Trump Criticizes NATO Members Days Before Summit

(Source: Voice of America News; issued July 09, 2018)

Despite US President Donald Trump’s oft-repeated complaints that European NATO members are getting a free ride on defense spending, an analysis of the actual figures suggests he is wrong. (IISS graphic; see following story at bottom.)

U.S. President Donald Trump has again criticized NATO member nations just days ahead of an alliance summit he will attend this week in Belgium.

"The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other Country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable," Trump said in a tweet Monday.

"While these countries have been increasing their contributions since I took office, they must do much more," he added.

Trump has been a harsh critic of NATO since he began campaigning to be the U.S. president. Since taking office in 2017, Trump affirmed the U.S. commitment to the defense of NATO allies, but he has continued to criticize NATO's funding, arguing that Washington is shouldering too much of the financial burden.

During a rally last week in Montana, Trump vowed that he would "tell NATO: You've got to start paying your bills." The president also said that Americans were "the schmucks that are paying for the whole thing.''

NATO says the United States funded about 70 percent of its expenses in 2017.

NATO's 29 members contribute funds to the organization according to the size of their economies. Member nations committed in 2006 to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024, but NATO estimates that not all members will meet the target.

The upcoming NATO summit on Wednesday and Thursday is the first major summit since the fractious Group of Seven meeting in Canada last month. At the conclusion of that meeting, Trump retracted his endorsement of the group's final joint statement and blasted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as "very dishonest and weak."

After meeting with NATO leaders in Brussels, Trump travels to Britain where he will meet with Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth II. Trump meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16, the final stop of his European trip.


The US and its NATO Allies: Costs and Value (excerpt)

(Source: IISS; issued July 9, 2018)

Despite Trump’s complaints, the argument over NATO burden sharing is not so straightforward. A closer look at the data reveals that the US is principally spending its defence dollars for its own security needs.

Some in NATO are concerned that the Alliance’s upcoming summit in Brussels on 11 and 12 July could turn out to be a landmark, for the wrong reasons. The bombardment of recent signals from the White House (and even the Pentagon) essentially renewing the charge from President Donald Trump that the US is spending more than its fair share defending Europe, and the Europeans not enough, has stoked fears that it will, at the very least, be a bumpy ride in Brussels over burden sharing.

But pick apart some of the actual data, as we also did last year, and the picture can look rather different from the one normally portrayed by the White House.

Rather unsubtly, Trump has sent letters around Europe and Canada putting pressure on US allies to spend more money on defence. The spectre for many is of the NATO Summit turning into something similar to the public relations debacle that was the G7 Summit in Canada last month. On that occasion, Trump reportedly named the European Union, NATO and the World Trade Organisation as the ‘worst deals’ for America.

The mood in many NATO capitals has not been helped by the fact that the US president has scheduled a meeting in Helsinki with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, just after the Brussels gathering.

Trump has on several occasions, in slightly different terms, complained that NATO is too costly and hinted that the level of US commitment to European security may be in doubt. And he has used the stick of the Alliance’s 2014 Wales Summit pledge by member states – to move towards spending 2% per cent of national income (specifically, Gross Domestic Product) on defence – to beat those who he believes are not pulling their weight. Despite all its flaws and its mostly symbolic properties, that pledge was an important benchmark.

US defence spending in context

Of course, the Americans have complained about European burden sharing down the decades. But perhaps never quite so pointedly from the very top, and with so many other uncertainties about US leadership swirling in the background. It does feel different this time.

In overall terms, in 2017, the United States’ total national-defence outlays amounted to US$602.8 billion. This was the equivalent of 70.1% of aggregate spending by all NATO member states. The second-highest spender was the United Kingdom, accounting for 5.9% of NATO’s total defence expenditure, as measured by the IISS. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the IISS website.


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