An attack against one NATO member is considered an attack against all. For this reason, NATO guidelines encourage all member nations to maintain a ready military by spending 2% of their annual GDP on defense. There is no penalty for failing to meet this goal.
NATO describes the 2% target as “an indicator of a country’s political will to contribute” to allied defense efforts. Meeting the goal sends a clear message to the world that NATO is a credible alliance.
Only five members currently spent 2% or more on defense. Some nations, like Spain and Belgium, don’t even spend 1%.
In 2014, several NATO members agreed to meet the 2% target by 2024. Last year was a huge step towards that goal, with 23 of NATO’s 28 members increasing defense spending.
The United States met and exceeded the target by spending 3.36% of its GDP on defense in 2016. France and Turkey, with 1.79% and 1.69% respectively, almost made the cut. Germany spent 1.2%.
“Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!” President Trump tweeted last weekend after an uncomfortable meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In February, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis warned that the US might “moderate its commitment” to the alliance if European members don’t start pulling their weight.
As I wrote in a previous article, Germany has plans to meet the 2% rule by 2024. Chancellor Angela Merkel does not intend to speed up this plan.
“NATO does not have a debt account,” argues German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, adding that Berlin’s 2018 budget includes a 3.9% increase in defense spending.
“Germany has a strong economy. None of our partners would understand it if we didn’t manage to do our part while poorer countries have to tighten their belts to meet the target.”
Von der Leyen doesn’t believe the 2% goal is an accurate representation of a member’s actual contributions, and suggests NATO change the way commitments are assessed.
“For me, the question is who is really providing added value to the alliance,” she says, calling to establish an “activity index” that would consider members’ participation in foreign missions when assessing budget goals.
The United States currently pays for “more than one-fifth of the direct, collective funding that keeps NATO’s military and civilian operations on track,” reports CNS News. This is just over 22% of the NATO budget.
Germany makes up for 14.6% of that budget; France contributes 10.6%; and Britain pay for 9.8%.
The following thirteen allies each contribute less than 1% of the budget: Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Slovakia, and Slovenia.