President Donald Trump has insisted throughout his term in the White House that America’s allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization uphold their commitment to annual defense spending, a demand critics said would only weaken NATO and damage U.S. relationships with its allies.
But according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Trump’s leadership successfully increased defense budget spending from NATO nations, and the alliance is as strong as its ever been, The Washington Times reported.
Since Trump took office, the number of NATO nations meeting or exceeding the threshold of 2% annual defense spending has nearly doubled, the Times reported. Esper said he anticipates an even greater surge of defense spending from NATO Allies over the next four years thanks to the president’s determination and leadership.
Trump spurred increased spending
The Defense secretary made the remarks during a speech on strengthening U.S. alliances and partnerships in an era of growing “great power” competition at the Atlantic Council on Tuesday.
Regarding NATO spending, Esper said, “When it comes to burden sharing, for example, from 2016 to now our NATO allies have added a total of $130 billion to defense spending thanks to the United States’ leadership. Even better, we expect that figure to top $400 billion by 2024.”
He continued: “As of June, nine Allies were meeting the two percent of GDP defense spending commitment. That is up from five in 2016.”
The Washington Times noted that, in addition to the U.S., the other NATO nations meeting the 2% threshold include: Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, Germany, one of the largest and wealthiest nations in the alliance, still has not reached its commitment, despite Trump’s repeated insistence that it do so.
More than just NATO
Esper’s remarks also undermined the narrative that Trump has strained U.S. relations with important allies, pointing to successful ongoing efforts at strengthening existing alliances and forging new partnerships around the globe to help contain common enemies and rivals like China, Russia, and Iran.
“This goes beyond NATO as well,” Esper said. “We expect all allies to invest more in defense — at least two percent of GDP as the floor. We also expect them to be ready, capable, and willing to deploy when trouble calls. And we expect them to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States in confronting Chinese bad behavior and Russian aggression.
“To overcome the increasingly complex threats in the 21st century and defend our shared values, there can be no free riders to our common security,” the secretary added.
Along those lines, Esper also addressed examples of ways that the U.S. was strengthening alliances around the globe, from working with Eastern European nations, to containing Russian aggression, to our nation’s partnership in the Middle East that focuses on containing Iran.
Despite what critics may say about Trump’s blunt rhetoric with our nation’s allies, he has succeeded where others have failed in convincing our nation’s allies and partners to do their part in making the world a safe and more secure place.