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Donald Trump on NATO: if you don’t pay, we won’t protect. Where does the alliance budget come from?

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Donald Trump maintains the position that America should not protect countries that “don’t pay their obligations” in NATO – and he repeated it at another rally. “The United States paid for almost everything,” he declared. The statements of the former US president may be misleading: the defense expenditure of the member states is one thing and the NATO budget is another – it is made up of all the countries of the alliance.

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Donald Trump regularly criticizes NATO allies for insufficient funding of this organization. On February 10, 2024, at an election rally in South Carolina, he reported a conversation with one of the heads of NATO countries (he did not give his name). “One of the presidents of a large country asked me, well sir, if we don’t pay and we are attacked by Russia, will you protect us? I said, no, I won’t protect you. In fact, I would encourage them [Rosję]for them to do whatever they want with you. You have to pay,” he said.

Biden: “disgraceful, dangerous and anti-American.” Trump doesn’t budge

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These words sparked comments around the world. The White House responded immediately. “Encouraging the invasion of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and senseless. … It threatens America’s national security, global stability and our domestic economy,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement on February 10. On February 13, he commented on Trump’s words President Joe Biden: “No other president in our history has ever bowed to a Russian dictator. Well, let me say this as clearly as I can: I will never do it. For God’s sake, it’s stupid, shameful, dangerous and anti-American. When America gives its word, it is means something. When we make a commitment, we keep it. And NATO is a sacred commitment.”

February 14, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a press conference he said: “Any suggestion that we will not defend each other, that we will not protect each other, is to undermine common security and increase the risk.”

Meanwhile at the next rally in South Carolina, Donald Trump maintained his position. And he explained: – I just said: if you don’t pay, we won’t protect you. And everyone was outraged that it was so bad, so terrible that I would say something like that. Not if they don’t pay their debts, and most didn’t when I was president. Then there were 28 countries, seven of which paid their share. Seven is still very little, but it’s still something.

As he continued: “that is, the United States paid for almost everything.” – It was terrible, so I asked: what is it?! Bush will come, give a speech and go, Obama will come, speak and go, no one will say anything. When I arrived, I didn’t make a speech, I just looked at the settlements and I see that these amounts are terrible. Nobody pays for their obligations. I told them that and then I came six months later and said: you had time. Then one of the leaders asked me: does this mean that if we don’t pay, you won’t protect us? I replied that this would be the case: exactly, I won’t protect you, we don’t want to be a stupid country anymore, Trump said.

The “2% of GDP for defense” commitment is not the NATO budget

Let’s first clarify Donald Trump’s words about “paying your dues.” This unclear statement may suggest that the former US president is referring to the commitments that NATO members made at the 2006 summit – that they would allocate at least 2 percent. of its GDP for defense spending. This commitment was confirmed at the NATO summit in Vilnius in 2023. At that time, however, the alliance’s leaders stated that in many cases it would be necessary to spend more than 2 percent on defense. GDP to address existing shortfalls. They called on NATO members to spend one-fifth of each country’s defense spending on new equipment and research and development.

The evidence is that Trump saying “seven [państw NATO] “paid its share”, he meant that 2% of GDP – and not each country’s share in the NATO budget (because these are two different issues) – is the above-quoted statement from the second rally in South Carolina. As we checked, after Trump was elected president of the USA, indeed, e.g. in 2019, only seven NATO members allocated more than 2% of their GDP to defense expenditure (Poland was not among them).

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also perceived Trump’s statement as referring to the obligation of the alliance countries to allocate 2%. their GDP for defense spending. At a press conference on February 14, on the eve of the meeting of allied defense ministers, Stoltenberg said: – This year, I expect 18 allies to meet the requirement to spend two percent of GDP on defense. This is another record and a six-fold increase since 2014, when only three allied countries met this target.

Stoltenberg emphasized that the defense spending of European NATO members is increasing. In 2014, they amounted to USD 235 billion – which represented 1.47%. the total GDP of the European members of the alliance. In 2021, it was USD 300 billion and 1.7%, respectively. GDP; in 2024, the expenditure of this group of countries is expected to amount to USD 380 billion and it will be exactly 2%. their combined GDP. Stoltenberg noted, however, that “some countries still have a lot to do.”

From the data published by NATO Headquarters shows that in 2024, all alliance countries will spend a total of USD 1 trillion and 159 billion on defense (USD 102 billion more than in 2021, i.e. before the Russian invasion of Ukraine). The defense expenditure of all 31 alliance countries planned in 2024 will constitute 2.71%. the total GDP of all NATO members.

Poland is a leader in the alliance

NATO reports that in 2023, the main goal of the alliance – allocating at least 2% own GDP for defense – met by 11 countries: the United States and 10 European allies. Five countries from this group – Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland – directly border on Russia. Poland is the leader in defense spending in NATO, which is estimated to spend in 2023 3.9 percent its GDP ($29.1 billion at current prices); the United States is in second place – 3.49 percent GDP ($860 billion); third is Greece – 3.01 percent GDP ($7.1 billion).

The next countries whose defense spending exceeds 2 percent GDP is the Baltic countries – Estonia 2.73 percent, Lithuania – 2.54 percent, Finland – 2.45 percent; next are: Romania – 2.44 percent, Hungary – 2.43 percent, Latvia – 2.27 percent; Great Britain – 2.07 percent and Slovakia – 2.03 percent Therefore, it is clear that the so-called countries are at the forefront in achieving NATO’s goal. eastern flank of the alliance.

Below 2 percent such expenses include, among others: France (1.9% of GDP), Germany (1.57%) and Turkey (1.31%). The list does not include Iceland, which does not have its own armed forces.

NATO’s annual budget – EUR 3.8 billion

The obligations that Trump is talking about are the funds of the member states and only they have access to them. But this does not mean that NATO – as an international organization – does not have its own budget. On the contrary: NATO has at least EUR 2-3 billion at its disposal every year; in 2023 it was EUR 3.3 billion. This consists of contributions from individual member states – their amount depends on the level of GDP of a given country.

According to the information on the NATO Headquarters website, the largest contributions to the alliance budget are made by the United States and Germany – 16.2% each. the entire NATO budget; Great Britain – 11.18 percent, France – 10.4 percent.

Poland’s share in the NATO budget is almost 3%. The breakdown of individual countries’ contributions to the common budget presented below is valid until the end of 2024.

Whole NATO’s annual budget consists of three elements:

  • civilian budget, which mainly covers expenses for the operation of the NATO Headquarters in Brussels – 438.1 million euro in 2024 (EUR 370.7 million in 2023)
  • military budget, which finances the operation of the integrated command structure, the alliance’s operations and missions, and, to some extent, training and exercises – 2.03 billion euros (1.96 billion in 2023)
  • security investment program, which finances the alliance’s infrastructure investments, including: airports, ports, warehouses, fuel transfer systems, satellite communications – 1.3 billion euros (EUR 1 billion in 2023).

In total, NATO’s planned expenditure in 2024 is to amount to 3.77 billion euros, almost half a billion euros more than in 2023. We asked the NATO press service whether in the history of the alliance, and especially in the years 2017-2020, it happened that member countries did not make a direct contribution to the NATO budget. We are waiting for answer.

Main photo source: HUNTER CONE/EPA/PAP

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