16:24 GMT21 February 2020
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    The public should be “skeptical” of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s claim that members of the alliance are contributing an extra $100 billion for defense, former American diplomat Jim Jatras said in an interview with Sputnik News Monday.

    European nations are "tap dancing" and liable to "cook the books" to show they've spent more on defense than they really have, the former US diplomat said, underscoring his stance that the $100 billion figure cited by Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, should be taken with at least a grain of salt.

    During an interview Sunday on US President Donald Trump's preferred cable TV news network, Fox News, Stoltenberg said, "By the end of next year, NATO allies will add 100 billion extra US dollars for defense. So we see some real money, some real results… NATO allies have heard the president loud and clear, and now NATO allies are stepping up."

    European nations would spend more money on defense if they faced external military threats, Jatras told Sputnik. But most European nations in NATO are not actually worried their territories will be invaded, he argued, because they have not bolstered defense spending on their own terms.

    According to the joint communique published after the 2018 NATO summit in Brussels, "some two-third of Allies have national plans in place to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024," keeping in line with the 2014 Defense Investment Pledge agreed to by NATO members at the 2014 Wales Summit.

    The latest available data from NATO show that in 2017, just five nations met the 2 percent commitment: the US, the United Kingdom, Poland, Greece and Estonia. To illustrate the point, Jatras explained that his argument, that European nations would spend more if there were an external military threat, is exemplified by Greece. Greece has experienced a government debt crisis for years and can ill-afford to spend money on unneeded projects, yet Greece's 2.4 percent defense spending is good for second-highest in the alliance after the US (3.6 percent). This is because Greece faces a legitimate external military threat — fellow NATO ally Turkey, said Jatras.

    By Jatras' analysis, NATO's optimally efficient budget would be $0, since the alliance was intended to be defensive in nature, and that purpose became defunct in 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    Politically, by prodding NATO members to contribute more money to defense, Trump could eventually make a push to dismantle the alliance on the grounds that European nations no longer need the protection of the US military, says the former diplomat.

    Lawmakers in the House of Representatives and Senate have pledged the US' support for the deep state cut-out NATO has become since its raison d'être ended in 1991, Jatras said, noting that the House recently resolved to prevent the US from exiting NATO after Trump reportedly considered doing so. But withdrawing from NATO is within Trump's unilateral power, said Jatras, noting it would only take the stroke of the president's pen.

    Jatras has been a senior staffer in the US Senate and a US Foreign Service officer, and he advises Republican leadership on foreign policy.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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