Trump Urges NATO Members to Boost Defense Budget, Or Else
Last month, the U.S President Donald Trump sent sharply worded letters to member countries of NATO, demanding the increase in their defense spending. As the New York Times reported, Trump also threatened to “adjust” the U.S. military presence around the globe if they ignore the warning.
The letters were sent ahead of the upcoming NATO summit in Brussels on July 11-12. Several experts said those letters reflect Washington’s impatience with NATO’s failure to step up to alliance promises but warned that Trump’s letters could play into Russia’s hand by sowing division within NATO.
The New York Times reported that Trump wrote a particularly pointed letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“As we discussed during your visit in April, there is growing frustration in the United States that some allies have not stepped up as promised,” Trump said in the letter to Merkel.
“The United States continues to devote more resources to the defense of Europe when the Continent’s economy, including Germany’s, are doing well and security challenges abound. This is no longer sustainable for us,” added Trump.
At the NATO summit in Wales in 2014, the alliance’s members signed a ”Defense Investment Pledge.” Under the deal, they agreed to spend two percent of their GDP on defense by 2024. Trump has complained that 23 out of 28 members have yet to meet this threshold and pay what they agreed to for their defense, which he claims is unfair to American taxpayers.
It was when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 that NATO allies agreed to stop slashing the defense budget and to start allocating two percent of their GDPs within a decade.
Defense News reported that NATO military spending has been on the rise for the last three consecutive years, which is a first for NATO. They also reported that many of the NATO countries had adopted plans to meet the two percent threshold by 2024.
How did other NATO members react?
Norwegian Defense Minister, Frank Bakke-Jensen, stated his country is committed to the NATO summit pledge in 2014 and would follow up this issue. Norway has spent on defense “far beyond” the NATO target, the minister said.
German Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday that Germany is committed to the two percent goal and Berlin is ready to take substantial responsibility within the alliance. In 2016, Germany only allocated 1.2 percent of their GNP on defense. Germany argued that their development aid also contributed to international security.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel played down Trump’s letter, saying that he was “not very impressed” by it, according to a report by Deutsche Welle.
The U.S. – Britain alliance under threat?
As the New York Times reported, last month U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis wrote to the British Defense Minister threatening to replace Britain with France as the U.S.’ “partner of choice” if London does not increase its defense spending. Britain has so far complied with the pledge to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense.
Britain’s global role “will require a level of defense spending beyond what we would expect from allies with only regional interests,” US Defense Minister James Mattis wrote in his letter to Britain’s Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson.
Mattis praised France for promising to boost its military spending more than a third from 2017 to 2025
“As global actors, France and the U.S. have concluded that now is the time to significantly increase our investment in defense. Other allies are following suit,” Mattis said.
Some British lawmakers have pushed for parliament to increase defense spending, but at the same time, the country is dealing with worsening domestic crises like growing rates of homelessness.