Jul 23 2018
At Brussels Summit, President Calls on Allies to Meet Spending Commitments
President Trump delivered a tough but necessary message at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Brussels this month: Allies must meet, if not exceed, their commitments to defense spending. NATO’s future strength depends on the contributions of all members.
The President was justified in making this demand. Every one of NATO’s 29 members has pledged to spend two percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024. And yet, only five countries, including the United States, are currently doing so.
Burden Cannot Fall Solely on American Taxpayers
Defense spending goes hand in hand with one of the primary benefits of NATO membership: the assurance that allies will come to the aid of each other in the wake of a direct attack. When members fail to meet their individual responsibilities, it affects the alliance’s collective defense capabilities. Countries such as the United States are forced to pick up the slack.
Defense Secretary James Mattis put it this way when meeting with the defense ministers of NATO nations last year: “No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defense of Western values. Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do.” Those words echoed a prediction made in 2011 by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said Americans would be reluctant “to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.” President Trump’s firm stance in Brussels reflected these longstanding and valid concerns from the American people.
Senate Resolution Reiterates Support for NATO, Condemns Russian Aggression
Prior to the Brussels meeting, I introduced a bipartisan resolution in the Senate that underscored the President’s call for NATO members to meet their defense spending obligations. More broadly, the resolution reiterated the importance of NATO’s role in defending global security and democracy amid new threats to the values we hold dear. It also reaffirmed the Senate’s steadfast support for the protection of any NATO member state against Russian aggression.
The Kremlin has shown it has no qualms about violating international order and the territorial integrity of a sovereign nation, given its invasions of Ukraine and Georgia in recent years. As chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I led a hearing on July 17 specifically focused on Russia’s 10-year occupation in Georgia, which has caused untold harm on innocent civilians. Russia’s aggression in these neighboring states is more than just its flexing of military muscle. Moscow has long expressed a strong opposition to Georgia and Ukraine earning NATO membership.
Brussels Declaration Renews Spending Commitments
The outcome of the Brussels summit was encouraging; all 29 members signed a communiqué that represents a constructive blueprint to strengthen the alliance. The declaration specifically addresses the issue of defense spending, noting that national plans have been adopted by two-thirds of members to spend two percent of GDP by 2024. It also points out Russia’s many campaigns to destabilize Euro-Atlantic security, including its chemical attack against a former Russian spy in England this year.
The President was right to confront the difficult issue of defense spending when attending the NATO summit in Brussels. NATO has been at the bedrock of transatlantic security for nearly 70 years. With complex global challenges, the continued strength of the alliance is all the more imperative. This starts with the cooperation and contribution of every participating member.