US President Donald Trump has stepped up criticism of European NATO members ahead of a summit gathering of NATO heads of state and government that will be held on July 11-12 in Brussels, Belgium.
The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other Country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable. While these countries have been increasing their contributions since I took office, they must do much more. Germany is at 1%, the U.S. is at 4%, and NATO benefits…….— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2018
…Europe far more than it does the U.S. By some accounts, the U.S. is paying for 90% of NATO, with many countries nowhere close to their 2% commitment. On top of this the European Union has a Trade Surplus of $151 Million with the U.S., with big Trade Barriers on U.S. goods. NO!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2018
"I'm going to tell NATO — you got to start paying your bills," Trump told a rally in Montana on July 5. "The United States is not going to take care of everything. We are the schmucks that are paying for the whole thing."
Earlier, the US president singled out Germany, the EU's flagship, for not honoring its NATO spending commitment.
"Germany pays 1% (slowly) of GDP towards NATO, while we pay 4% of a much larger GDP. Does anybody believe that makes sense? We protect Europe (which is good) at great financial loss, and then get unfairly clobbered on Trade. Change is coming!" Trump tweeted on June 11.
Washington remains one of the major contributors of the alliance providing up to 22 percent of NATO's budget.
It appears that Trump's rebuke has borne fruit as Paris and Berlin have reportedly pledged to meet the 2 percent of GDP target in the coming years. Thus, France is about to bolster its military spending over the next seven years under a new draft bill. For its part, Germany has vowed to boost its NATO spending to 1.5 percent of GDP by 2024.
However, it has not prevented German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen from backfiring on Trump.
"You can easily spend 2% of your national GDP on defense while at the same time not contributing anything to NATO — do not participate in missions, do not participate in actions, do not participate in reinsurance missions," she stated, addressing Washington.
For his part, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel underscored that Belgium "participate[s] in many military operations with [its] NATO allies and it is this government that decided to end the systematic reduction of defense spending."
Trump's Looming Withdrawal
At the same time, NATO member states are expressing fears that Trump may reduce the number of US troops deployed in Europe over the spending row.
In late June 2018, The Washington Post reported that Pentagon officials were considering options to pull US troops out of Germany. According to the newspaper, either some or all of the 35,000 US troops stationed there could be relocated within Europe or completely withdrawn. The assumption was later rejected by US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Members of the transatlantic alliance fear that the upcoming meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump may result in "redrawing the security landscape" across Europe, The Telegraph noted. They are also concerned about the potential reduction in the number of joint US-European exercises on the continent.
The rift between the US and Europe is rapidly deepening amid the NATO spending controversy and the US-driven tariff war.
Washington's Own Military Spending Burden Increasing
The Trump administration's demand that NATO members spend more on defense is understandable in light of the US's own growing military spending burden.
According to National Priorities Project (NPP) estimates, the US military spending "would continue its rise, up 4 percent from $700 billion in 2018 (already an 8 percent increase over the last Obama military budget) to $726 billion in 2023."
"By 2023, the final year included in President Trump's budget request, military spending would make up 65 percent of the federal discretionary budget, compared to 54 percent in 2018," the non-governmental organization focused on US defense expenditures reported in February 2018.
The country's military-industrial complex keeps absorbing a large part of the US budget, at the same time raising questions regarding its efficiency and transparency.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 project has repeatedly prompted criticism for going 50 percent over its original budget, which makes Bloomberg ask rhetorically whether the endeavor is a "trillion-dollar mistake."
Yet another controversy was triggered by the country's Zumwalt-class destroyers as the government had to pay $22.5 billion to produce just three ships.
Meanwhile, the US economy appears to be in bad shape, given its soaring national debt, which has crossed the $21 trillion mark, and growing federal deficit, let alone the indebtedness all over the country's economy.