This has led to a lot of folks on my twitter feed repeating all kinds of myths about this. So, let's bust some myths.
- No, there is nothing in the NATO charter about 2%. Nil, nada, zip. Good luck finding it. The NATO treaty has no language that sets a particular expectation.
- To be clear, since Trump gets this confused, the 2% expectation is about each country spending on its own defense, not giving back to the US for its defense spending.
- At the Wales Summit (I may be confusing summits), NATO countries agreed to aspire to reach 2%. Yes, that is a dodge, but one the members agreed to. Why? Because more than a few knew it would be politically impossible to get to 2% any time in the near future. Canada would have to double what it spends on defense, for example. So, again, there is no requirement to spend two percent.
- There is an expectation that countries stop cutting their defense budgets and start spending more. And this is mostly happening (well, except for Canada).
- Spending two percent of GDP on defence is only one metric and not a perfect one. Greece is always among the countries that spends more than two percent. Partly because it has a lousy economy, partly because it spends much to keep up with Turkey which it sees as its most significant threat (and Turkey is a NATO member, oops). Greece rarely shows up when NATO does anything difficult. In Afghanistan, for much of the mission, Greece had around 15-20 soldiers--the lowest % of troops they deployed/troops they have in the alliance. Canada spends more $ than most allies, but because it has one of the largest economies in the alliance (really!), % of GDP does not look so good. Oh, one could measure burden sharing in blood--where the Estonians, Danes and Canadians would lead, based on troops they lost in Afghanistan as percentage of population. Hmmm.
- Burden-sharing is always a problem in alliances, as countries have different domestic political dynamics and different levels of interest. That the US spends more has a lot more to do with its global role than what it is dedicating to NATO.
- Oh, and as a reminder, the defense of Europe is not American charity, but in the US national interest. Peace and prosperity in Europe is good for the US--something we recognized after joining two bloody wars in progress.