|Photo: Air Force Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison|
Last week at the NATO meetings in Brussels, U.S. President Donald Trump retreated to his campaign stance, saying NATO member countries are not spending enough money on defense.
This happened is his very first official meeting with the NATO group leaders. He said, "Member nations are still not paying what they should be paying; this is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States." This left some of the leaders shaking their heads since Trump as recently as February was quoted saying that money is pouring in and NATO was no longer "obsolete."
NATO leaders pledged to up the defense spending in 2014, before Trump ever announced his run for the Presidency.
Claudia Major, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said: "The defense spending pledge was made in 2014. That's when some countries started to increase spending. Trump became president in 2017. The timeline is clear." Members of NATO agreed to gradually increase support for defense year after year. This strategy is set in place to protect each country’s domestic economy. First, they agreed to halt spending cuts, then to move slowly toward a 2 percent increase.
The principle behind NATO is a collective defense. If someone attacks one of the 28 member countries, the alliance considers it an attack on all. There is, however, no penalty for countries that fail to meet the proposed spending requirements. Spain, Slovenia, Canada, Luxembourg, and Belgium all spend about 1 percent of their GDP on defense. Germany spends 1.19 percent and France sits at 1.78 percent. Some of the surge in spending has to do with increasing fears of Russian assault or invasion. Sharing a border with the Russians is Latvia, which increased its defense spending by 42 percent last year. Neighboring Lithuania expanded its defense spending by 34 percent.