Updated Jul 11, 2018
By the numbers: NATO defense spending
President Trump arrives today at the annual NATO summit in Brussels fixated on the fact that most members are falling short of defense spending targets, going so far as to declare that the current state of affairs "just doesn't work" for the U.S.
The bigger picture: Trump isn't the first president to push Europe on defense spending, but the 2% figure only tells part of the story.
By the numbers...
- 29 countries across Europe, the U.S. and Canada comprise the NATO alliance. 12 original members joined in 1949, and Montenegro became the newest member last year.
- 62,635 U.S. troops were based in Europe as of 2016, with about half of those in Germany and Italy and the U.K. also hosting large numbers.
- On the agenda for this week: The "readiness initiative" that would, per CSIS, "ensure NATO has 30 battalions, 30 combat vessels, and 30 air squadrons ready within 30 days.
The spending picture...
- 1.45% of GDP, across all non-U.S. NATO members, is invested in defense.
- 5 members (rounding up for Poland) met the 2% threshold last year. 3 more plan to by year’s end, and 15 have presented plans to get to 2% by the 2024 deadline.
- 72% of all defense spending among NATO members comes from the U.S. The next biggest spenders — the U.K., France and Germany — together spend 20% of the U.S. total.
- 11 of the 29 members spend the targeted 20% of their military budget on equipment (rather than, say, military pensions), while several countries — like Slovenia and Belgium — fall far short.
Approval of NATO...
- 62% of Americans have a favorable view of NATO, per Pew. That’s right at the median among member states.
- 78% of Democrats have a favorable view, up from 58% in 2016. 47% of Republicans approve.
- 79% in Poland and the Netherlands have favorable views, the highest rate. The lowest approval comes in Turkey (23%) and Greece (27%).
The Russia question...
- 60+% in Greece, Italy, Germany, Spain and the U.K. say they’d expect the U.S. to use military force if Russia got into serious military conflict with a NATO ally, per Pew, while less than 50% (and just 25% in Greece) say they’d expect their country’s military to take part. Those numbers are more balanced in France, Canada and Poland.
- 28 of 29 members reduced trade with Russia between 2012 and 2016 amid a series of sanctions, per CSIS. The exception is Croatia.
- 22 of 29 NATO members have increased defense spending since 2014, when Russia’s annexation of Crimea spurred increased urgency among members. One exception: the U.S.
Go deeper: Despite Trump’s attacks on NATO members, U.S. support also down.