Lately, there seems to be a big hype over NATO members not “paying their fair share” and it’s overall burden on the US. However, most of the data presented to the public is based on no more than a set of misconceptions being driven by the political elite.
The most popular claim is that NATO is costing the US too much money, and that other members of the alliance are not paying their “dues”. On the surface, this may seem like a rational argument, but digging into the internal workings of the alliance paints a different picture altogether. It’s also worth noting that the US is the only member in history to ever activate Article 5, which followed the events of 9/11.
The ‘dues’ that are constantly being misrepresented are actually military expenditures per GDP, not money owed to the alliance or the United States. Currently, this guideline is set at 2%, which was established just a couple years ago. At that time, it was understood by all members, including the United States, that it would take time for most smaller countries to meet this objective. The claim that recent political efforts lead to a greater contributions are false since increased spending has always been the objective. It’s worth stating though, that continued aggression from Russia may be responsible for decreasing the amount of time it takes to achieve those efforts.
The U.S. pays a meager 22% of NATO’s small budget, far less than America’s proportionate share given its size and status as a superpower. The allies are paying disproportionately much for NATO. Overall, the US benefits from a net gain in the form of their spending. Europe also pays for more than 90% of the allied troops defending Europe, leaving the US contribution at about 10%. None of these troops are specifically hired for NATO, they are contributed from forces that already exist across the span of multiple countries.
It is true that the US has the strongest military force inside of the alliance, so there’s no question that it does play a major role and even reaps specific benefits from time to time because of this. The US has for decades favored spending a great deal of money on maintaining a strong military, so any associated expenses would exist whether or not America was part of the alliance. Whether the troops are stationed in Europe, Asia or within US borders, the trend would be mostly unchanged. Such moves have less to do with NATO and more to do with maintaining a productive partnership with allies in any given region.
For the most part, being a member of NATO is to the US advantage, which is why its membership has been maintained and rarely questioned for the many decades since WWII, surviving even the most drastic changes in leadership…at least up until now. The ironic thing is that the politicians questioning the need for NATO recently are the same ones diverting much needed domestic resources to the military, hence, making the alliance militarily stronger overall. This is by choice and not obligation.
In many ways, stationing forces in Europe actually saves the US a substantial amount of money. NATO members generally have no issue with the placement of US bases within their borders. It’s sort of a win-win for both sides because it allows for the US to deploy forces to other nearby regions, such as the Middle-East, at very little cost compared to constantly having to steam a navy back and forth across the Atlantic. Meanwhile, the hosting nation benefits, at least politically, from the sense of security obtained from having a strong military force within arm’s reach, despite the great risk involved should all hell break loose.
How much money has NATO saved us? Our defense costs in the 10 years of the two world wars alone were greater than all our defense costs added together in all 67 years since NATO was formed. That’s true counted either way—in raw constant dollars, or as a proportion of GDP. It’s been a saving of trillions of dollars. -The Atlantic
NATO is about a collective defense, which includes strategic placements, cooperation and the sharing of valuable intelligence. Some of these things money just cannot buy. And while some may complain about how much the US contributes to the alliance, little is said about the risks being taken by those who opt to host US assets in Europe. As mentioned, the US gains a lot in being allowed to place military bases so close to the front lines. While this keeps the fight away from US borders, it also places the hosting country at a substantial risk of attack from US enemies abroad. In the event of an all out nuclear war, these countries are accepting the possibility that their own territory may be targeted solely for allowing the placement of US assets behind their borders. Should this happen, the associated costs sustained in such an attack would be far beyond the suggested minimum in spending.
All being said, when it comes to how NATO operates, money is just a small factor. Alliance members that may be strapped for cash often contribute in other ways, some of which can be far more costly than current spending guidelines suggest in the long run. The ability to place US assets inside a strategic location are extremely valuable to not just America, but to the alliance in general. This is the reason why NATO would rather salvage a dwindling relationship with member Turkey, if possible, before revoking the country’s membership entirely.
An adversary such as Russia would love nothing more than to see the NATO alliance fail, and using its resources to stir internal debate is just one way of doing it. Statements such as “NATO members are not paying their fair share” and it “being obsolete in the 21st century” are straight out of the Kremlin’s playbook. They don’t spread this propaganda out good intent to help the US and Europe, they do it to put an end to the only thing that has prevented their ability to make war in Europe for decades. This is why Ukraine, not being a member of the alliance, was selected as Russia’s first imperialistic target. Had the alliance not existed, it could have been the Baltics, Poland or even Germany. The Kremlin is not looking to help America, it’s looking to weaken it. Should that happen, Russia will be free to invade whoever they wish, whenever they wish, with no mechanism in place to prevent it.
Since 2014, propaganda to discredit NATO has been well circulated throughout not only Europe, but America as well. Even more concerning is that much of this destructive propaganda is being spread via US administrative officials who should be opposed to the spreading of such information. Since President Putin knows he cannot win a direct confrontation with NATO, he’s attempting to cross the barrier with the spreading of disinformation through democracy’s biggest newfound vulnerability…politics, wealth and greed.
Some politicians, and I won’t say names, also claim that Europe should be left to fend for itself, despite NATO acting on US interests soon after the days of 9/11. There are a couple flaws in this logic. As we’ve already touched on a bit, the US troops in Europe are more about cost effectiveness and having the option for quick deployment to the Middle-East. It’s been this way since the end of the last Cold War. Now the argument will be made regarding the recent buildup of forces in the Baltics, but we have to understand a couple of things about that situation. First and foremost, contrary to what Russian media suggests, the buildup is in response to aggressive actions already taken by the Kremlin. It is feared that Ukraine was just a prelude to larger things to come, and that the Baltics could be used to test NATO’s resolve before all is said and done. Note that these countries are either near, at or over NATO’s suggested spending minimum. They are also the most vulnerable to attack from extensive forces sitting just the other side of the border. Should the Baltics be lost to Russia, it would deal a crippling blow to the NATO alliance in terms of reliance and credibility. The Kremlin knows this, and that’s why this cannot be allowed to happen.
Prior to the annexation of Crimea by Russia, the NATO presence in the East was generally far weaker than it stands today. With that said, even Russia admits that it can easily overwhelm NATO forces currently stationed along its borders. These troops pose no threat whatsoever to Russia, and any argument to the contrary is mere propaganda seeking to justify the Kremlin’s ever increasing imperialistic movements in the region.
Another flaw in the suggested move to nationalism is that the entire world is more secure now than it was prior to the foundation of NATO. In the early parts of World War II, the US had very limited involvement. This lasted up until the bombing at Pearl Harbor, which as a result forced the US into more direct involvement in the war. Many historians believe that had the US intervened at the first sign of trouble, thousands of lives could have been spared with millions of dollars saved. The same can be said today, where some experts call Ukraine nothing more than a test, and should the US had of taken stronger footing upon the first signs of invasion, then Russia likely would have pushed itself away from the table and called it a night. Instead, like a spoiled child, the Kremlin has gotten everything that it’s set out to achieve and therefore, sees no point in putting a stop to its continued success in this area.
The need for NATO exists now more than ever, especially with ongoing military movements which indicate the coming of a great war. While some continue to spread the misconception that it’s not fair for the World’s richest and most powerful nation to contribute to the alliance, it’s also unfair to complain about spending, that in reality, is far less than that wasted by the very same people on hidden political agendas. Which expenditures am I referring to? There’s certainly no shortage, so I’ll leave that for you to decide. Here’s a hint though: The real dollars being wasted aren’t in Europe, think closer.
“You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” -Leon Trotsky
Since the start of NATO, there’s been less war in the world between major powers, though the dangers that lie within geopolitics remain. Like war, geopolitics is interested in us, even when those we elect to lead choose not to be.