The Corner

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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.

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