The world’s largest military alliance met in Warsaw last week. The largest agenda item was money.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been pushing long and hard for more spending by its members. Just last year, the alliance increased defense spending for the first time in 20 years. However, the fly in the organization’s machinery is that most NATO countries do not pay their recommended share. If this matter rings a bell for the reader, then it is timely to remind that one of Donald Trump’s pet peeves and one about which he has harped and harped, and may be serious, is that the U.S. should rethink its involvement in the military alliance because it is “obsolete” while other member nations don’t pay a fair share.
Yet, those involved in NATO’s leadership, as anyone who knows how much having a job with longevity is valued by those in it, the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, a Norwegian politician, said, “The world is a more dangerous place than just a few years ago.” That statement was likely inspired by the fact that the former Soviet Union is Russia again, and allows Vladimir Putin too much access to the steroid storage. We’re all aware that Putin, at the very least, has taken back the Crimea and wants back all of the Ukraine as well as those that have been free of the Soviet yoke for years, like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Of course, other nations are worried, too.
But back to the subject of money. NATO statistics report that the U.S. spent an estimated $650 billion last year. It turns out that our amount is more than double that amount of all the other member nations combined so we’re mainly protecting them: This fact grinds on many Americans because the other member states enjoy a combined GDP that tops that of the U.S.
NATO publicly acknowledges it has an “over-reliance” on the U.S. and reports also that one of the most economically weak member nations, Greece, is the second biggest NATO spender in proportional terms at 2.38 percent. Hillary Clinton has been soft on skinflint NATO members, imploring those folks to please, please, please do their part. Donald Trump has gone a lot further in what he promises to demand from the other members and, if elected, he’ll put feet to a proverbial fire, and, whether Russia is just playing boogeyman beyond the Ukraine or not, get those people off their nearly total defense dependence-on-America ways.
The repeated fact here is that our contribution in dollars to NATO is $650 billion, with the U.K. at $60 billion, France at $44 billion and Germany at $40 billion with most of the others in the category of small change. Canada, with a fairly large economy, comparably contributes nearly nothing.
An impression of President Barack Obama is that he’s been weak-to-totally passive at getting the NATO members to do their part as his best asset comes across as pontificating policy which adds up to nothing more than a long list of impressive words found only in academia. Hillary Clinton tells us she wants to wear his shoes which are apparently just her size as they share a seat on Air Force One and campaign and are campaigning for her in a modern day Astaire-Rogers routine. If Donald Trump’s elected, this is an issue it’s hoped he will stand by his word, pinning the cheapskates on the NATO mat and thereby correcting the huge imbalance in payments far too many years overdue or demand the freeloaders cough it up or the U.S. will exit NATO.
(Gene H. McIntyre’s column appears weekly in the Keizertimes.)