NATO’s key problem is underscored by the location of the Madrid summit
Jhe accession agreement reached on Tuesday to see Finland and Sweden join NATO is good news. Finland, in particular, has a well-armed, resourced and trained military. More importantly, it makes it clear to Vladimir Putin that his aggression will mean further isolation and military alignment against Russia.
Membership reflects something else: NATO is the most enduring and important multinational alliance in the world. It directly serves American interests, as well as those of our allies.
But NATO has an important and increasingly urgent problem.
Even as Russia wages a major war in Ukraine, Europe’s largest ground war since 1945, too many NATO member states continue to treat the alliance as a one-sided piggy bank. A trough, that is, from which they can extract truly invaluable defense engagements and abilities while spending very little of their own resources. All NATO members have agreed to rectify this mismatch in resource commitments by collectively committing in 2014 to a defense spending target of at least 2% of GDP.
Eight years later, the results are there. Failure is the word of the day. The 2022 NATO summit on Tuesday sums up the problem. After all, the summit is held in Spain.
Spain is a piggy bank brigadier general. Just consider NATO’s last defense
released on Monday. These figures show that of the 30 NATO member states, only Luxembourg spends less than Spain as a percentage of GDP on defence. NATO estimates that Spain will spend only 1.01% of its GDP on defense in 2022. Consider this statistic. Eight years after the 2014 pledge, Spain is barely halfway to the minimum spending target. Indeed, Spain’s penchant for allowing Russian warships to dock in its ports en route to slaughter Syrian civilians is equally ignominious.
However, it would be unfair to single out Spain. Just ahead of Spain on the piggy bank chart is Belgium with 1.18% of GDP in defense spending. Belgium is the country which has the quite undeserved honor of hosting the headquarters of NATO. Or take Justin Trudeau’s Canada, which is at an equally pathetic 1.27% of GDP. NATO’s central challenge is that these members are not the exceptions to the rule, simply the worst examples of it.
Take the European Union powers of France and Germany. It might be tempting to look at France’s 1.9% GDP estimate for 2022 and say, “Well, they’re getting closer to the target.” The problem is that we are in 2022. France has had eight years to reach 2%. But the record of Europe’s largest economy, Germany, is truly laughable – or tragic, depending on how you look at it. At 1.44% of GDP, Germany languishes even behind Italy which is at 1.54% of GDP. To his credit, Chancellor Olaf Scholz ordered an emergency spending plan to see Germany massively increase defense spending in light of the war in Ukraine. But we will have to wait to see if these promised investments materialize. Either way, Germany’s defense posture proves Angela Merkel’s standing as the most overrated Western leader in modern history.
Some claim that the 2% target
in its importance. They are wrong. As the failed 2014 engagement demonstrates, NATO’s credibility is measured not by summits but by the weight that these exchanges of pleasantries carry alongside tougher capabilities. Ultimately, it is airlift, intelligence, deep strike and maneuverable combat assets that hold adversaries in check. The war in Ukraine proves that NATO needs more than NATO relies heavily on the United States to provide. To reaffirm: words will not stop the Russian invasion of the Baltic, only the credible annihilation of the invaders will. More importantly, Europe has the wealth and the interests to afford at least the 2% target.
The challenge to fix things is urgent.
China means that even if the United States wanted to, it cannot continue to subsidize the defense of Europe. The existential threat Communist China poses to the democratic international order and critical U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific must be prioritized in future military investments and deployment structures. Faced with an advanced and reinforced Chinese military bent on defeating Taiwan and seizing $5 trillion in trade routes across the South China Sea, the US military cannot hold on to as many intelligence, air, and naval in Europe (a consideration compounded by the idiocy of pig fetishism). in Congress). Some Europeans recognize this.
Britain’s new army chief, for example, used a landmark speech on Tuesday to observe that “given the United States’ commitments to Asia in the 2020s and 2030s, I believe the burden of Conventional deterrence in Europe will fall increasingly on the Europeans in NATO … It’s fair in my view: taking on the burden in Europe means we can free up more American resources to ensure that our values and our interests in the Indo-Pacific.
The problem is that not enough Europeans understand. And too many who get it don’t get it with the degree of urgency required. The choice then follows: Europe and Canada can finally, and immediately, begin to take the principle of alliance burden-sharing seriously. Or the world’s most important alliance will crumble at the intersection of China’s pursuit of hegemony, escalating Russian threats and inflexible European impotence.