In case you were wondering…

NO, Germany doesn’t “owe” NATO a red cent.

And perhaps if President TwitterFingers spent more time studying and understanding the alliance, instead of tweeting about it, he would have known this as well, instead of going on one of his infamous Twitter seizures on the heels of that “great meeting” he had with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week.

I had honed in on this previously during the campaign, slamming Trump’s claim at the time that somehow we pay 73 percent of NATO, whatever the hell that means.

So, in case you were wondering how the alliance funding works, lemme ‘splain.

No, the United States does not spend 73 percent of NATO. That number refers to our defense budget compared to those of other NATO allies. Given the fact that we’re YUUUUGE, and they’re small, it makes sense that our total defense spending – even at a reasonable 3.6 percent of GDP will be much higher than theirs.

In other words: The United States defense budget ($664.1 billion) / the sum total of all NATO allies’ defense budgets, including the United States ($918.3 billion) = .72. The United States defense budget comprises 72 percent of the sum total of defense budgets of all NATO allies. OK?

Each country decides how much it will spend on its own defense.

NATO recommends that member nations spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on their own defense. It has other recommendations, vis-a-vis defense budget breakdowns, but none of these benchmarks are requirements. Nations decide for themselves how much to spend on their defenses.

Currently, maybe 5-6 NATO allies meet that standard, including the United States, Great Britain, Poland, Greece and Estonia. A number of other countries have committed to increasing their defense spending – not because Trump demanded it, but because they see the resurgent, aggressive Russia as an increasing threat, and since that’s why NATO was created in the first place, it’s a pretty logical turn of events.

NATO members do contribute some funds to common funding projects via direct contributions. This is where NATO members’ costs are assessed by the alliance based on nations’ GDP. The United States, being the biggest, baddest, and strongest member of the alliance pays roughly 22 percent of that figure. The UK pays about 9.8 percent, France pays 10.6 percent, and Germany pays 14.6 percent.

NATO is a treaty obligation for us, but members are not required to participate in all NATO operations. For NATO missions, each member decides how much they will contribute, if at all. The only exception is when NATO engages in an Article 5 collective defense operation, which requires the participation of all alliance members. Know how many times NATO invoked Article 5? Once. Know when? After the September 11 attacks on the United States. So yes, after terrorists attacked the United States, NATO members stood together and declared that an attack on the United States was an attack on all of NATO. But once again, there’s no size requirement. Allies contributed as much or as little as they assessed they could.

And no, we don’t provide defense to Germany, or any other NATO ally. We are NATO’s biggest partner, and we’re the leader of the alliance, but that doesn’t mean we give other NATO allies a penny, and that certainly doesn’t mean they owe us, considering the only time the Article 5 collective security guarantee was invoked was after an attack on US.

There are varying opinions about whether or not NATO is even needed today. Hardcore Libertarians (read: those who have no comprehension of how the alliance – or really human nature – works, and who will immediately call you ignorant and unaware of America’s oh-so-evil history of interfering in other nations’ affairs, blah, blah, blah) are screeching the alliance should be disbanded, as it’s no longer needed. I’m not even going to get into the vast numbers of conspiracy theories out there spewed by some of these nutjobs! Use your Google-fu, if you really are that interested in the crazy.

Suffice it to say, I disagree with the derpapotomi, given Russian aggression over the past several years, but that’s not what this post is about.

I would submit that the U.S. Commander-in-Chief, who ostensibly is ultimately in charge of all matters concerning our military and foreign policy, should at the very least know how America’s most significant alliance works!

And instead of once again using injudicious language on Twitter, perhaps he should spend more time studying that about which he tweets, so he doesn’t make us look like utter jackasses.


32 responses

  1. I read something somewhere that said, “all NATO members agree to spend 2% or more of their GDP on defense” and that Germany and France are not spending that much. Did I misinterpret that?


    1. Germany and France aren’t even close, although they’re promising to increase defense spending by 2024. There’s nothing that says all NATO members officially agree to spend 2% or more of their GDP on defense. As a matter of fact, when I google that particular phrase, the only hit that comes up is some bulletin board where someone claims that’s what they agree. There’s no requirement. It’s a benchmark.


      1. Benchmark, yes, but agreed to at the Wales Summit in 2014 (paragraph 14: NATO Wales Summit Declaration )


        1. I linked to that. Actually agreed to in 2006 first. And as NATO itself says, it’s a GUIDELINE. Not an official commitment.


    2. Honestly, France has currently bigger problems than their defence spending, mainly that it is the favourite target of terrorists. Germany is already helping out France in Mali, so that France has in turn more freedom when it comes to deploying its troops. In addition, France is struggling economically.

      And Germany…well, you have to consider two things when it comes to Germany. For one, the GDP of Germany is ridiculously high. Germany passes as a middle seized country, but economically it is eye to eye with the likes of the US and China. Consequently 2% of the German GDP is a sum which would cover an army considerably bigger than any other in Europe. It simply doesn’t make sense to spend that much because Germany, being an overall pacifist country and in principle anti-military nowadays, would have trouble to even find enough soldiers to spend that much money on. And two, there is this little fact that nobody actually wants Germany to have an army of this size. Hell, originally Germany wasn’t supposed to have military at all, and then it was supposed to not use it for anything but defence. If Germany would really start spending that much money on its military it could potentially trigger other countries to compete with Germany in this regard – and it might give Russia an excuse to attack. There is a real danger that it might create a set-up similar to what eventually caused WWI. Germany is steadily raising its spending, but it needs to be done carefully and smart.


  2. That’s a very cogent explanation of how NATO works. Perhaps if you can spoof your e-mail, to appear to be from Breitbart or Fox, you could educate Trump on treaty alliances 101.


    1. Oh, dog no! LOL


  3. I’ll have to read this later, when I’m more coherent. Coffee’s not working.

    Liked by 1 person


      Liked by 1 person

      1. …Yeah, not even two days of caffeine has helped. My only thought is, there really should be something to change NATO or update it. But I haven’t been able to manage a more coherent thought than that. ^^; It’s been a very tiring last few days.


        1. Sorry to hear that. I’m not sure what you mean by “change or update” NATO. NATO is a military alliance. It exists for a reason, and given Russia’s recent aggression, it cannot be argued that NATO is still relevant. The only thing that should change is the allies’ commitment to their own defense. I would propose that no country is allowed to enter unless it demonstrates a commitment by meeting certain benchmarks vis-a-vis defense spending, budget breakdowns, etc. Those benchmarks already exist. Now they just need a mechanism to obligate compliance, which they just don’t have.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Everything you said; NATO doesn’t seem relevant any more, there is no way to obligate compliance, etc.

          Wow. I think I should sleep more, but I did today and I don’t feel rested or awake at all. Sorry. This week seems to be ‘can’t brain’ week. ~_~;


  4. Trump’s problem isn’t that he’s stupid. No one gets to where he is in life without some actual intelligence. Despite the leftists wailing that he’s LITERALLY HITLER YOU GUYS, and the fact that I personally don’t care for him very much, he does have some positive traits.

    Trump’s biggest, most egregious personality defect is that he’s prone to just going apeshit on Twitter (or in a speech or off the cuff, he’s versatile). He just shoots his mouth off without bothering to educate himself, and then has to repeatedly walk back the stupid shit he said. He’s especially likely to do this when he perceives any kind of attack against himself or his policies. If he’d just take a deep breath and think things through, I feel like he’d avoid a lot of the problems he stumbles into.

    Basically, he suffers from premature attackulation, is what it really comes down to.


    1. He’s not stupid. He’s cunning. But he’s ignorant, and worse yet, he doesn’t want to know what he doesn’t want to know. You are exactly right. He shoots his mouth off without actually bothering to get informed.


    2. Someone whose daddy is giving him every opportunity in life including a million start-up money (at a time when this was still a large sum) and bail-out when he went bankrupt the first few times can easily get that far in life with the right kind of bluster, especially in US society where people actually perceive confident people as competent people. Though Trump isn’t even confident, he is more a narcissist, but same difference.


  5. It’s not even the money at the heart of this for me. Not that I like him mouthing off about NATO. Don’t want to shake that alliance for now. But if everyone agreed to a certain level of looking after themselves with the others as a backup, I’m a bit pissed about Germany and France leaving themselves more open because of the lower defense spending. That makes them a softer target. Not soft. Softer. Then they want everyone else to come to their defense when they couldn’t be bothered to shore up the batteries, so to speak, in the first danged place.


    1. Well they came to OUR defense under Article 5, even with their low defense spending. The defense burden is sometimes a poor gauge of commitment.


  6. I actually know very little about how our military functions with all of it’s international obligations and agreements. However, I think that if for no other reason than to maintain good relationships with the other NATO nations, in the event that we need to call on one of them to allow us to maintain or place personnel or equipment on their nation’s soil. Maybe even refuel on the way to a mission. If we were to dissolve NATO, then if a member nation disagreed with a particular mission, there would be no leverage of any kind to encourage them to co-operate. The money we spend on NATO is money well spent, in defense of our friends, and we should, instead of threatening to withdraw from the alliance, diplomatically encourage them to get on the same page with us, at least in public. This is where we need a strong Sec. of State. I hope Tillerson is up to the task, but I am not sure. Dangerous times, with Putin being a smart and ambitious man, in Russia, with Trump the same here, and both paranoid.


    1. I’m about to dash your hopes here vis-a-vis SECSTATE.

      U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will skip a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organization foreign ministers next month, the State Department announced.

      It is highly unusual for a U.S. Secretary of State to miss a NATO meeting. In the past 21 years, America’s top diplomat has missed a gathering only twice. The last time was in 2003, during the Iraq war, when Colin Powell canceled his attendance at the last moment.

      President Donald Trump was highly critical of the alliance during his presidential campaign, describing it as obsolete. Since taking office he has been more supportive, but he has stepped up pressure on allies—most recently Germany—to spend more on defense.

      Mr. Trump is currently scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida at the time of the NATO meeting.

      State Department officials are saying little about Mr. Tillerson’s schedule. Spokesman R.C. Hammond said in a Twitter message late Monday that Mr. Tillerson would meet foreign ministers from NATO countries this week at a meeting in Washington of nations involved in the effort to combat the Islamic State extremist group. The tweet said Mr. Tillerson would meet with foreign ministers from the Group of Seven leading nations in Italy on April 10, then travel to Russia.

      Privately, NATO officials have been worried about the perception that the new administration is putting meetings with Russia and China ahead of meetings with allies.


  7. I do not think Trump was saying that Germany would directly provide funding to the US. Instead, his point was that Germany “owes” it to the US to spend more on its defense budget to shoulder a larger share of the NATO burden. When NATO deploys troops to places such as Bosnia or Afghanistan, it falls to the US to provide the lion’s share of troops, firepower, and aircraft because the capabilities of the NATO partners other than the U.K. and perhaps Italy to project force are so limited.

    The US has kept troops continually deployed in Europe over the last 40 years at huge cost. It practiced moving troops quickly to Europe in an annual exercise called Reforger to demonstrate its commitment to defending Europe against Russian aggression. The US kept troops in the Fulda Gap of Germany as a “speed bump” to give the NATO alliance time to mobilize in the event of an invasion by the Warsaw Pact.

    Even though that is not how NATO works today, the US has a long history of expensive troop deployments to Europe to deter and defend if necessary against aggression from ita Eastern flank. Even today, it is the US that will often provide the bulk of forces in Eastern European exercises that are designed to demonstrate NATO resolve to prevent a reoccurrence of an invasion similar to what happened in the Ukraine. The lack of spending by NATO allies means that the US still has to pick up the slack for deployments that are geographically much closer to Western Europe than to the US.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do not think Trump was saying that Germany would directly provide funding to the US. Instead, his point was that Germany “owes” it to the US to spend more on its defense budget to shoulder a larger share of the NATO burden.

      You’re missing the point. There IS no “larger share of the NATO burden” other than a small direct contribution which is assessed BY NATO for each member, and which each nation pays. And he has previously shown a complete ignorance of how the alliance works, so pardon me, if I don’t fall for the “Well, what he meant was…”

      When NATO deploys troops to places such as Bosnia or Afghanistan, it falls to the US to provide the lion’s share of troops, firepower, and aircraft because the capabilities of the NATO partners other than the U.K. and perhaps Italy to project force are so limited.

      It’s up to each country to decide how much they send. That decision was ours and ours alone. The 9-11 attack was against us, so yes, we had the most commitment in the War on Terror, aside from being the biggest NATO member. Again, the defense burden in and of itself is a small indicator of NATO commitment. All allies came together under Article 5 post 9-11.

      The US has kept troops continually deployed in Europe over the last 40 years at huge cost.

      They weren’t “deployed.” They were stationed. We’ve been closing bases there and reducing our footprint in Europe for several decades now, and it’s actually more expensive in the short term to close bases. And having troops stationed in strategic places in Europe also provides us a quick staging area in case shit does hit the fan. There are reasons for our being there.

      The lack of spending by NATO allies means that the US still has to pick up the slack for deployments that are geographically much closer to Western Europe than to the US.

      And they are. The US mission in Kosovo is much smaller now that EULEX has taken over. I’m pretty sure we don’t participate in the Baltic Air Policing missions any longer – not for the past three years at least. We do participate in Ocean Shield, because piracy affects us directly.

      If Germany’s military spending is sufficient only for defense, then it cannot participate in the defense of another NATO country.

      Except it already has – the only time Article 5 was invoked: after the 9-11 attack against America.

      If it cannot get troops to another NATO country quickly enough to repel an invasion, then it is legitimate to question whether it “owes” more.

      Except it has and it did. Germany was the third largest contributor to ISAF after the United States and the UK. Try again.

      Repelling an “invasion” against one NATO member is the duty of all the allies. That’s the whole point of the alliance.

      Oh, and by the way, Greece, which DID meet the NATO defense burden recommendation, contributed practically no troops to ISAF.

      This is why the defense burden gauge is an inaccurate one by itself, because that number is dependent on how big (or small) the country’s GDP is. Greece was at one point spending 2.6 percent of its GDP on defense – during the height of its debt crisis. Their economy had shrunk so much, it looked like they were spending a whole bunch on defense, when they weren’t. Did that make them a better partner during the ISAF mission? Nope. Meanwhile, Poland at the time was right around 1.8 percent, if I remember correctly, and they kicked serious ass in Afghanistan. Germany was at 1.4 percent of a rather large GDP, due to it being an export economy. Albania was at 2 percent a few years ago, because their economy is tiny. They buy one tank, (exaggerating) and they’re there! Aren’t they a great partner? /sarc

      Additionally, you also have to remember that the NATO definition of “defense spending” includes military pensions, which in some cases are super high. Those are counted as part of the operations and maintenance budget, and they contribute nothing to actual military capabilities.

      In other words, Trump needs to learn how NATO works, how defense spending works, and how to at least speak publicly, so he doesn’t sound like he’s an ignorant dolt.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh, and by the way, Italy sucks. Its defense burden for the past years has consistently hovered at around 1.3


  8. My overall point is that each country in NATO has to spend enough on its military in order to have a force projection capability. If Germany’s military spending is sufficient only for defense, then it cannot participate in the defense of another NATO country. If it cannot get troops to another NATO country quickly enough to repel an invasion, then it is legitimate to question whether it “owes” more. In essence, countries such as Germany that spend so little on defense are delegating Article Five responsibilities to the US. The basis of NATO is that each country should spend more on its military than is strictly required for self defense in order to create a robust force that can meet its Article Five obligations in the face of renewed Russian aggression.


  9. By the way, I should have stated first that I am a huge fan of your writing and your site. In this case, I agree with you that Trump spoke poorly, but disagree that other NATO countries like Germany contribute enough.

    You make a big deal about NATO’s Article Five defense of the US after 9/11, but that was largely symbolic. NATO’s response was limited to five aircraft sent to the US for combat air patrol. Were German aircraft part of the response? I don’t even know, but it was more of a political response than a military response.

    Germany’s involvement involvement in Afghanistan is even more illustrative. It sent something like 3000 troops to northern Afghanistan where very little fighting took place, and did not even patrol at night. When requests were made for German troops to assist with the fight against the Taliban in the South, the requests were often refused. And its force protection was so restrictive that German combat engagements were very limited.

    Even though the Germans were the third largest contributor to ISAF, it was NOT the third largest contributor in terms of combat (in my opinion).


    1. For your information, Germany is with 5,350 soldiers and policemen one of the main contributors of troops to coalition operations in Afghanistan. Your implication that Germany is somehow not doing its part by focussing on securing areas and basically acting as a peace force, is quite insulting. For one, there are historical reasons for this. Germany is not allowed to act as aggressor under any circumstances due to rules which were partly written by the US itself. And two, no matter where the troops are stationed, the costs are still the same.

      And, for your information, at least 54 German soldiers and three police men died in Afghanistan to this day (my numbers are from 2013, so they are not quite up to date). 345 soldiers and four police officers were injured. Soldiers Trump dishonoured along with all the other NATO soldiers who died for the US by standing in front of a memorial for the 9/11 attack and NATO leaping to the defence of the US in response and claiming that the NATO countries don’t pull their weight. We paid with the live and health of our soldiers and citizens, so don’t dare to claim that we don’t pull our weight.

      BTW, the military Germany has is sufficient for its defence, it is just spread thin when it is also used in Afghanistan, Mali and Syria in order to clean up behind or help out our allies.


  10. I need to collect my thoughts on this but IMHO your way off base on this


      1. Bourbon first


        1. Dude, seriously. Wut? Give me a break! These are facts that I’ve stated. Whether you think that NATO nations contribute enough or not, (and I don’t) is completely irrelevant. There is no debt. There is no fucking NATO defense burden requirement. Just stop.


        2. Damn, I haven’t even said anything yet


      2. Nicki, I was not actually all that hopeful about Tillerson. I can think of several conservative people who would be good Sec. of States right now, but unfortunately, most of them are either too moral to work with Trump, or too smart to be associated with a policy that is sure to provoke rather than build bridges to agreement. What is your opinion of Condi Rice? She seemed at least from the outside to be effective, and is certainly one of the most intelligent people to have served in the office in recent memory, since perhaps Kissinger, who, though a scary man, was also brilliant. As to the bourbon helping to collect thoughts, I think that there is not enough booze in Tennessee to argue with your post. Like they say, there is no one blinder than one who just won’t see. Don’t confuse me with facts, I have my mind made up already.


        1. Condi was super smart. But oh holy neocon, Batman!


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