NATO and the 2% rule

As the election cycle already has started, the topic of NATO is frequently coming up as a relevant election topic. Biden is a cold war warrior who wants to expand NATO to any price, primarily for national security reasons, but also to continue to grow the U.S. military-industrial complex globally.

Trump on the other hand does not have an interest in NATO expansion and is skeptical of international organization and the deep state. Also, he is a businessman, who believes everyone in NATO should pay the fair share and according to NATO stipulation, each member state should pay at least 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP) annually.

Last year, only 11 member states met this target and key countries like Germany, Italy, France, Turkey, and Spain did not. They were not even close. NATO’s more recent member Sweden, the 32nd NATO member, spends a fraction of the minimum amount. There is a distinct difference between the two U.S. parties and the presidential candidates when it comes to NATO. It might not be a decisive election issue like the U.S. economy, immigration, and abortion, but voters do care about foreign spending.

Many believes Biden has been reckless with billions of dollars going to conduct foreign wars in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip and elsewhere. Why should the U.S. continue supporting foreign wars and at the same time work for an expanded NATO, if other countries are not paying their fair shares. Trump certainly has a point there. Some political analysts have suggested a two-tiered NATO system in which members not meeting the required financial threshold of 2% of their GDP would not receive alliance protection or at least not to the same extent as countries paying the full amount. This will most likely not work though as the basis for the existence of NATO Is that if one country is attacked, it is seen as an attack of the whole alliance.

Another proposal has been to impose tariffs on NATO member countries that do not comply with the 2% spending level. Bottom line is that it makes sense for all members to pay what they are supposed to pay, 2% of their respective GDP. That message is pretty clear and easy to understand. On a more ideological basis, Biden is a globalist, Trump a nationalist, so there is an inherent positive versus negative view of international organizations in general. The United Nations is another good example, where Biden is favorable of an active U.S. role within the United Nations framework, whereas Trump deem the whole organization as useless and has not expressed support for the rules-based international world-order.

NATO and other U.S. politico-military alliances must be paid for and the payment responsibility must be shared by all involved allies. The U.S. should not be a charity organization, but demand that the fair shares are paid also by others. This is in the national security interest of all member states, and it requires spending the necessary resources to build peace over time. If the NATO members reduce the defense and military capabilities or retreat from a position of strength, other countries will fill the vacuum. The clear message to all NATO members should be, pay at least the required 2% of your GDP or leave NATO.

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