Today at the NATO summit in Brussels, President Trump repeated his frequent complaint that the United States pays an unreasonable percentage of NATO’s expenses. At an unscheduled news conference, Trump said the U.S. pays “probably 90 percent of the costs of NATO.” Is that true?
Does the U.S. really pay 90% of NATO’s costs?
No. The U.S. share of the commonly funded NATO budget is closer to 22 percent, according to the latest NATO figures. When it comes to defense spending, the U.S. provides 67 percent of that budget. But there’s no way to slice the pie to make Trump’s claim of 90 percent true.
NATO has set an informal target for its member nations to contribute 2 percent of their GDP to NATO by 2024. Only four of the member nations met that goal in 2017: the U.S., Greece, Britain, Estonia. (Poland came in just shy with 1.99 percent.) NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that he expects eight nations to hit the target in 2018.
Observers were left scratching their heads yesterday, when Trump demanded on Twitter that member nations immediately hit the 2 percent goal, not in 2024. Then he said each country’s contribution should be increased to 4 percent. But not even the United States spends that much — its current contribution is 2.7 percent.
In Thursday’s news conference, Trump reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to NATO and said that European countries had agreed to increase their contributions, giving himself credit for that development. “Yesterday I let them know that I was extremely unhappy with what was happening,” Trump said. “They are going to up it to levels like they have never before.” He didn’t specify what countries or quantify what he meant.
In reality, the pace of member-nation contributions began in increasing in 2011, when Secretary of Defense Bob Gates told NATO countries they needed to spend more on the military. “It has nothing to do with Trump,” said former Treasury official Steve Rattner on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “It started under Obama.”