In a speech at NATO’s new headquarters, President Trump told the leaders of the allied countries, to their faces, that they needed to pay more for the alliance’s collective defense. There had been hope by some members of the alliance that Trump was going to back off on his NATO criticism, the opposite happened.
Trump doubled down on his harsh assessment of deadbeat NATO allies who enjoy the benefits of the alliance’s protections without fulfilling their commitments to military spending. Trump told the leaders:
The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration, as well as threats from Russia and on NATO’s eastern and southern borders. These grave security concerns are the same reason that I have been very, very direct with Secretary Stoltenberg and members of the Alliance in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations, for 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense.
This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States. And many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and not paying in those past years. Over the last eight years, the United States spent more on defense than all other NATO countries combined. If all NATO members had spent just 2 percent of their GDP on defense last year, we would have had another $119 billion for our collective defense and for the financing of additional NATO reserves.
We should recognize that with these chronic underpayments and growing threats, even 2 percent of GDP is insufficient to close the gaps in modernizing, readiness, and the size of forces. We have to make up for the many years lost. Two percent is the bare minimum for confronting today’s very real and very vicious threats. If NATO countries made their full and complete contributions, then NATO would be even stronger than it is today, especially from the threat of terrorism.
NATO is a relic of the Cold War, and doesn’t make much sense today. But if the United States is stuck in the alliance, the least that can be expected is for all members to pay their fair share.