Europe Must Pay More of its Own Defense

NATO military leaders at Trident Juncture exercise, Oct. 17, 2015Russia’s military posture makes the NATO alliance between the United States, Canada, and Western Europe more crucial than at any time since the end of the Cold War.

Yet Europeans seem to have forgotten the importance of this alliance….

Although NATO guidelines direct member states to spend at least 2 percent of their Gross Domestic Product on defense, only five of 28 members actually do: the United States, Britain, Greece, Estonia, and Poland. Indeed, the United States spends 3.6 percent.

Meanwhile, Germany spends a mere 1.2 percent. Italy, Canada, and Spain spend 1 percent or less. It’s understandable that people in those countries prefer to spend their money on universal health care and paid parental leave. But one of the reasons they’re able to do that and skimp on defense is the security subsidy they get from US taxpayers. The United States foots the bill for 73 percent of NATO’s defense spending, including the cost of keeping more than 40,000 troops in Germany. The fact that so many Europeans have come to take US protection for granted could be seen as a sign of the trust they place in the US-led NATO alliance. But a truly strong alliance requires equal participation from all members. Europeans can’t expect Americans to make sacrifices to defend them if they aren’t willing to make the same sacrifices to defend themselves.

Image: NATO military leaders at Trident Juncture exercise, Oct. 17, 2015 (photo: Sgt. Emily Langer/NATO)