Defence Spending

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is a bit like the National Health Service. It is a sacred cow to whom the nations of the Western world must irrevocably commit, and like the NHS any threat to or reduction in the effectiveness of NATO is met with almost condemnation.

Recently Mr Trump pointed out the disparity between defence spending by various NATO members. NATO guidelines call on nations who are members to spend at least 2% of their gross domestic product (their gross incomes) on defence. The USA actually spends 3.61% on defence; poor and impoverished Greece spends 2.38%; the UK manages to spend 2.21% followed by Estonia’s 2.15%. Poland spends its 2%.

However NATO protects more than these nations. The remaining members all spend less than 2%; in the cases of Germany, well protected by NATO, it only spends 1.19% and Turkey 1.56% whereas Italy spends 1.1% and Canada, Slovenia, Belgium, Spain and Luxembourg each do not quite spend 1%.


Now the basis of NATO is that an attack on one member is an attack on all members, but the figures show that it is perfectly clear that many very prosperous nations like Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg do not spend their club membership dues but benefit from the expenditure of other, often poorer nations.

“No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defence of Western values, Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do,” Mr Mattis, the US Defence Secretary told NATO Defence ministers. He is right. There is no reason why Greece should spend more per capita on defence than Germany where both nations expect to be protected by the NATO defence umbrella. It is noteworthy that the members of NATO that are also of the members of the European Union would vehemently oppose any member of the EU seeking to pay less than the applicable fees. Germany would not allow any other member of the EU club to pay less than it owed, yet is quite happy to be in a club to which it does not pay the whole club subscription yet gets all the benefits. Inside Germany, it does not allow universal access to its health service unless a person has paid up all the insurance fees.

All this avoids a more important question – where does the threat to NATO come from? Certainly, in my view not the Russian Federation, even though it is fashionable to decry Russia in view of its annexation of the Crimea but Ukraine is not a member of NATO and is not entitled to protection. I doubt that there is any threat from the other major nations of the world including China, India and the like. The only possible potential threat of armed conflict seems to come from North Korea, and although terrorism is a real threat it cannot be countered by NATO.  Perhaps in these circumstances we should do some hard thinking about the need to maintain NATO in its present format.


3 Responses

  1. The USA maintains the largest military expenditure on the planet. $597,000,000,000,

    Russia’s budget is $65,000,000,000.
    The UK’s expenditure is $56,000,000,000.

    Europe obtains 30% of its oil and 40% of its natural gas from Russia.
    Russia earns $350,000,000,000 exporting oil and gas.

    If Russia had a war with Europe, hot or cold, Russia would lose its best customer and Europe would lose a third of its energy supply.

    So, war make no sense for the human people of Russia or Europe.

    However if you have a $600Billion military industrial complex making the highest possible tech weapons, peaceful co-existence and no high tech enemy (e.g Russia or China) is bad news for shareholders in Lockheed, Boeing, Raytheon etc. Perhaps bad news for California where Lockheed is based. The US military industry has control of the Pentagon and an unbeatable lobby in Government. Trump will undoubtedly spend on the military too.

    We have seen Russia and Putin vilified for 2 years in the media. Precisely to justify the purchase of Trident from Lockheed and similar high tech (V expensive and american) weaponry. The ludicrous deployment of Trident means we have a target painted on the UK. Without it we would be safer. Trident make us a target for anyone with ICBM’s. Without it, and if Russia was the enemy, why would Russia waste ICBM’s on us? They would be sent to the USA instead.

    Trident recently failed to launch properly, it is 1970’s technology. One wonders if it was disabled remotely by some unknown adversary with remote/drone technology. In any event I strongly believe that it should be scrapped and not replaced. Perhaps we could spend our NATO share on real and effective defence against our real enemies rather than conjured up ‘bogey men’.

    • That must be right.

  2. There is clearly a bunch to know about this. I think you made various nice points in features also.

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