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Russian threat to NATO outweighs what US allies spend on defense | News

Russian threat to NATO outweighs what US allies spend on defense |  News

 


Former US President Donald Trump sparked strong reactions in Europe after he said Washington might not protect NATO allies from a possible Russian attack if it wins the November election unless some members of the alliance does not increase its military spending.

Speaking at a campaign rally Saturday in South Carolina, the Republican presidential candidate said he told the unnamed leader of a major NATO country that he would encourage them. [Russia] do what they want with countries that don't spend enough on defense.

NATO, created during the Cold War, includes 31 countries, all located in Europe except the United States and Canada. Under Article 5 of the treaty that created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an attack on one member draws a response from all.

Trump has previously made similar comments about other NATO members' military spending, including when he was president, saying the United States was unfairly bearing the burden of defending the alliance.

But even as real estate developers-turned-politicians' rhetoric about the alliance remains unchanged, NATO members' spending is different than it was when Trump was in office.

An essential reason: Russia's war against Ukraine and the growing perception of a threat in Europe.

How much do NATO members spend on defense?

NATO defense spending declined sharply after the Cold War, from 4.1 percent of combined gross domestic product (GDP) in 1990 to 2.6 percent in 2000, even as the group expanded. To increase funding, members agreed at a summit in Wales in 2014 to contribute at least 2% of their GDP to the alliance by 2024.

In 2017, when Trump was sworn in as president of the United States, only four countries met this threshold: the United States, Greece, the United Kingdom and Poland. Since then, Trump's argument has been that the United States must pressure its allies to increase their military budgets.

Seven years later, NATO's military spending has changed significantly, even though most members still spend less than 2% of their GDP on defense.

By 2022, the number of NATO countries reaching this mark had reached eight: the United States, the United Kingdom, Greece, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Croatia.

Then, as the war in Ukraine continued and fears over Russia's expansionist ambitions grew, more European members increased their military budgets. That figure rose to 11 in 2023, with Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and new NATO member Finland all spending more than 2%, while Croatia fell below the threshold.

Luxembourg (0.7%) is the one that spends the least in relation to its GDP. Belgium (1.1 percent), Turkey (1.3 percent), Spain (1.3 percent), Slovenia (1.4 percent) and Canada (1.4 percent) are other member countries at the bottom of the spending pile.

Yet even as more NATO members have increased their spending, the alliance's dependence on the size and strength of the U.S. military has only grown.

The United States, whose military forms the core of the alliance, has consistently spent more than all other members combined. In 1990, the United States accounted for 61 percent of the alliance's defense spending. By 2020, the United States' share had increased to 70 percent.

What is the impact of the war in Ukraine on NATO spending?

Several NATO members have announced plans to increase their defense budgets and meet the 2% target following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. France has committed to reaching this threshold in 2025, Italy in 2028, Spain in 2029 and Belgium in 2035.

In December, the alliance announced a military budget of 2.03 billion euros ($2.4 billion) for 2024, a 12% increase from 2023.

The United States has provided more wartime financial aid to Ukraine than any other country, amounting to $44 billion since 2022, according to the White House.

Experts said NATO was still falling short of its target for military spending by each of its members and that the budgets of Western European countries furthest from Russia, such as Germany, were among the worst. slower to increase.

From 2021 to 2023, Berlin increased its spending as a percentage of GDP by 0.1%. In contrast, Ukraine's neighbor Poland almost doubled its spending during this period.

How might a second Trump presidency affect U.S.-NATO relations?

Trump's latest comments have raised concerns within the alliance about the risk of disruption within NATO if he returns to power.

Any suggestion that allies will not defend themselves undermines our entire security, including that of the United States, and puts American and European soldiers at greater risk, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement. The alliance has a total of 3.3 million military personnel.

Trump has had a checkered history with NATO for years, especially when he was president.

In 2019, Trump told reporters that he withheld nearly $400 million in congressionally approved funding for Ukraine because other NATO members had failed to contribute.

I would abstain again, and I will continue to abstain until Europe and other countries contribute to Ukraine because they don't, Trump said at the time. Why is only the United States investing the money? Germany, France and other countries should invest money.

Although not a NATO member, kyiv has been pushing for years to join the alliance, and NATO has in turn said protecting the country is a key priority. NATO had 12 members when it was established in 1949, and analysts have pointed out that the alliance's expansion into countries of the former Soviet Union threatened Russia's influence and angered Russian President Vladimir Putin .

Moscow has said that its neighbor Ukraine's membership in NATO would be a step too far. After Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, NATO stepped up its aid to Ukraine. The alliance has also increased funds for kyiv since Russia launched all-out war in 2022.

Republicans denounced Trump's comments on Saturday. Former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, Trump's only challenger for the Republican presidential nomination, told reporters the last thing the United States wanted to do was sideline on the Russian side.

Don't take the side of someone who went and invaded a country and half a million people died or were injured, she said, referring to Putin.

Sources

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2/ https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/2/12/trumps-russia-threat-against-nato-what-us-allies-are-spending-on-defence

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