NATO defense spending would set a record as the most likely alliance for a Trump victory

Most NATO member states will hit the alliance's defense spending target as it prepares for further Russian aggression and the possible election of Donald Trump.

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that 18 of the 31 members of the US-led military alliance will meet their target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense this year. That includes Germany, Europe's largest economy, for the first time.

This equates to a combined $380bn spent on defense by NATO's European members, a record sum. “We are making real progress . . . European partners are spending more,” Stoltenberg said.

That figure could rise as budgets are adjusted, according to three coalition diplomats. “NATO expects two-thirds of allies to reach 2 percent by 2024,” an alliance official said.

NATO spending rose markedly after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but Trump's tenure in 2017-21 brought a marked improvement, as the US president chastised his European allies for failing to spend enough.

In 2016, only five countries met the target. Today Poland spends 3.9 percent of GDP on defense, compared to the United States' 3.5 percent. Other countries, such as Spain, lag behind, spending more than 1 percent.

“We must listen and heed the following: The criticism we hear [from Trump] Not primarily about NATO. It's about NATO allies not spending enough,” Stoltenberg said on Wednesday. “That's a valid point … European allies and Canada should spend more.

A declared Nato-sceptic and isolationist, Trump – the presumptive Republican nominee in November's US presidential election – has previously threatened to withdraw from the military alliance that guarantees Europe's safety and security.

See also  At APEC, Biden talks about workers' rights, stable China relations

His rhetoric has continued into the current race for the White House. European leaders were shocked when Trump told a campaign rally last week that he would encourage Russia to “do whatever they want” with NATO members who failed to meet the target.

With Trump running strong in the polls against incumbent Joe Biden, he has once again sent shivers down NATO's headquarters in Brussels.

European diplomats and officials have said that continuing their upward spending path is the first of a three-pronged Trump containment strategy.

Second, NATO should lead Trump to focus more on the things that matter most to him, such as containing China or tackling terrorism. Finally, the partners understand that they must engage in flattery and charm to win his admiration.

“There is a lot of talk [Trump]A senior NATO diplomat said. “What's the best way to handle a future President Trump? . . . basically a combination of flattery and a firm hand.”

Despite increased defense spending since Russia invaded Ukraine, the only guarantee of Europe's security remains the US commitment to NATO, which has no replacement for its 80,000 troops on the continent.

Ona Lungescu, NATO's chief spokesperson from 2010 to 2023, said, “You can't worry too much about rhetoric, but instead focus on the points made.

“His priorities were very clear from the beginning. It was about identifying those priorities, putting them in the context of the alliance and making sure that addressing them would strengthen the alliance,” he added.

Trump's comments on Russia “underscored already existing concerns about the implications of another Trump presidency,” said Ian Lesser, vice president of the German Marshall Fund. “It could be very difficult on a number of levels. One, Europe is at war right now. And another is that the Trump administration will be more pointed in many policy areas and able to implement them.

Trump's first NATO summit, in Brussels in 2017, was remembered for the new US president lashing out at his allies for paying off the US, failing to mention its Article 5 mutual-defense clause and making disparaging remarks. The cost of the alliance's new headquarters.

The next year, the leaders gave Trump a reason to increase their defense spending at the summit. The stakes were high: The summit took place shortly before he flew to Helsinki to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“People are more advanced today than ever before. . . After the 2018 summit, Trump paid reporters $33 billion more. “Everybody in the room thanked me. There's a great collective spirit in that room that I don't think they've had in years.

Donald Trump at Ramstein Air Base in Germany in 2018
Donald Trump at Ramstein Air Base in Germany in 2018. It was reported at the time that he planned to withdraw a quarter of US troops from the country. © Andrew Hornick/AP

A year later, Trump's rhetoric on NATO has softened. He backed the alliance in 2019, saying it “serves a great purpose” after French President Emmanuel Macron declared it “brain dead”.

Trump's sometimes rocky relationship with Macron and his negative attitude toward Germany were aspects of his first presidency that could be repeated, diplomats said.

But other NATO leaders could use closer ties to his potential administration.

Asked about Trump's comments this weekend, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a fan of the former US president who maintains close ties to Putin and has suspended EU aid to Ukraine, indicated he was unconcerned. “We understand what Mr President has said and we are paying our dues,” Orbán's spokesman told the Financial Times. Hungary spends more than 2 percent of NATO countries on defense.

Stefano Stefanini, Italy's former ambassador to NATO, said Trump's re-election would be a defining moment for Europe's post-war security order.

“The problem that Trump is raising … is that the United States, Trump's America, refuses to commit itself to defending Europe in the event of aggression,” he said. If capitals individually support Trump, the threat to NATO will collapse, he said.

There is a possibility that Trump will be drawn into discussions about who will succeed Stoltenberg when he steps down as NATO's secretary general this year. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had a constructive relationship with Trump during his tenure Recently appreciated His stance on NATO spending targets is widely seen as likely to get the job.

Dubbed the “Trump Whisperer” for keeping the alliance together during his presidency, Stoltenberg adopted a strategy of targeted media messaging to bolster NATO's value. He appeared on Trump's favorite US TV channels with words like “strong”, “fair”, “victory” and “leadership”.

His team commissioned a bar chart showing defense spending in green and budget cuts in red. All of Trump's years in office have been evergreen: he regularly cites it in his speeches and at press events.

“Basically, it shows why he's interested in doing something that we want,” said a senior European official involved in negotiations with Trump during his first term. “In almost everything he was more transactional than ideological.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *