Secretary of State Tillerson continues to beat up NATO nations for not paying their fair share. Normally we hear these complaints by people leaving, so it’s refreshing to hear them early, which means we might actually get some reform.
Liberals seem loathe to support Trump on this point, and I’m not sure why. NATO’s own data shows the gap is real.
But this is percentages, which mean nothing. With Microsoft Excel as my friend, I calculated what this actually means in terms of billions of dollars, using the data from NATO’s website.
That’s 121 billion dollars, with a ‘B.’ But still again, this is just a number, impersonal and meaningless. It means more when you dig into budgets and find out what nations are spending the money on instead:
- For Norway, the 2 billion they don’t spend on defense is more than what they spend on pensions and road maintenance.
- Luxembourg reported a budget surplus of 1.2 percent, which they pocketed.
- Denmark took 25% of the difference and spent it on health care, sending over 5 billion kroner (~729 million US dollars) towards health care.
- Canada spent 18 billion on child care.
- The Dutch decreased their budget shortfall to pay for all kinds of programs.
Secretary Mattis was right to tell NATO nations to pay more. NATO nations are taking care of their own while allowing America to bear the cost of fighting terrorism and keeping the world safe for trade. The 121 billion would make a dent in student debt, to the tune of giving every student almost 6,000 dollars. It could pay for better health care coverage or help us improve our own infrastructure. In short, you’ve been paying for child care and a host of other services for non-Americans.
But wait, there’s more. Not only do these nations pay less, but when we go into combat, they do less. In Afghanistan, lot’s of people “contributed,” but placed restrictions on their troops. German soldiers couldn’t operate at night (no night light perhaps?), wouldn’t transport Afghans, and only operated in the quietest regions of the country. Out of 26 nations, 20 placed restrictions on troop usage. A common saying was that NATO would fight for Afghanistan until the last dead American.
I still believe in NATO (I used to work with them). I still think NATO has a place in this world. I don’t think freedom is going to defend itself, and NATO provides a good way to keep democratic governments free. But Denmark shouldn’t pay for it’s health care on the backs of American Sailors, and Canada shouldn’t provide child care while American Soldiers struggle to keep their own child care open. NATO paying their fair share is something all people, liberal and conservative, can get behind.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency. Then again, Secretary Mattis did tell NATO to pay up, so maybe my views reflect some of his own.