The Corner

World

There’s No Excuse for NATO Allies Not Meeting That 2 Percent Threshold

A general view during the NATO leaders summit in Watford, England, December 4, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

With the NATO summit wrapping up, President Trump continues to complain, accurately, that some allies like Canada are not spending 2 percent of their GDP on national defense, as the alliance requests of its members.

There’s really no good excuse for any member nation failing to hit that 2 percent threshold. In the most current report from NATO, the United States spends 3.42 percent, Bulgaria spends 3.25 percent, Greece spends 2.28 percent, the U.K. and Estonia both spend 2.14 percent, Lituania’s at 2.03 percent, Latvia’s at 2.01 percent, and Poland hit 2 percent on the dot. A bunch of NATO members are just below the threshold — Turkey’s at 1.89 percent, France is at 1.84, and Norway is at 1.8 percent.

Fifteen NATO members are below 1.8 percent; Canada is at 1.31 percent. The real stragglers are Belgium (.93 percent), Spain (.92 percent), and Luxembourg (.56 percent). The Luxembourg Army “has a strength of approximately 430 professional soldiers,” and a population of about 600,000 people.

What makes the low percentages particularly infuriating is that NATO allows countries to define “military spending” pretty broadly. A NATO country doesn’t have to spend more on fighter jets and tanks to hit that threshold; the alliance guideline is to spend 20 percent of the military budget on equipment.

If a country wants to spend more beefing up its capabilities in search-and-rescue or disaster response, or radar systems that would help with civilian air traffic control as well, they can do that. If a country’s national police, gendarmerie, carabinieri, coast guard are trained in military tactics, are equipped as a military force, can operate under direct military authority in deployed operations, and can, realistically, be deployed outside national territory in support of a military force, then they count as military spending, too.

Let’s say you’re a left-leaning European government that thinks guns are icky but likes spending more on government. Pay raises for military personnel and their pension systems counts as military spending! Ammunition for training, petroleum products, spare parts, rents, engineering equipment, transport vehicles, research and development . . . all of that counts towards a country’s military spending under NATO rules. Come on, guys. Just a little effort, and you would leave the president with a lot less to complain about.

Most Popular

U.S.

Bloc Heads

Welcome to The Tuesday, a cheery little weekly newsletter about the existential despair Irving Kristol indicated when he noted that Western civilization is collapsing “but it’ll take a long time, and, meanwhile, it’s still possible to live well.” The Bloc Party Right-leaning writers hawking books about ... Read More
U.S.

Bloc Heads

Welcome to The Tuesday, a cheery little weekly newsletter about the existential despair Irving Kristol indicated when he noted that Western civilization is collapsing “but it’ll take a long time, and, meanwhile, it’s still possible to live well.” The Bloc Party Right-leaning writers hawking books about ... Read More
Immigration

Did the DACA Ruling Bury Constitutionalism?

In reacting to President Trump's recent executive orders, Jim Geraghty asks “Do Americans Even Care If There's a Constitution?" He reluctantly suggests that the answer is “no.” This didn't happen all at once -- Woodrow Wilson was probably the first notable to explicitly express the progressive ... Read More
Immigration

Did the DACA Ruling Bury Constitutionalism?

In reacting to President Trump's recent executive orders, Jim Geraghty asks “Do Americans Even Care If There's a Constitution?" He reluctantly suggests that the answer is “no.” This didn't happen all at once -- Woodrow Wilson was probably the first notable to explicitly express the progressive ... Read More
Elections

On Kamala Harris

Joe Biden has named his 2020 running mate: authoritarianism. American prosecutors wield awesome and terrible powers that lend themselves easily to abuse, and Senator Kamala Harris, formerly the attorney general of California, is an enthusiastic abuser of them. Harris was a leader in the junta of Democratic ... Read More
Elections

On Kamala Harris

Joe Biden has named his 2020 running mate: authoritarianism. American prosecutors wield awesome and terrible powers that lend themselves easily to abuse, and Senator Kamala Harris, formerly the attorney general of California, is an enthusiastic abuser of them. Harris was a leader in the junta of Democratic ... Read More