NATO Members Suddenly Poised To Meet Military Spending Targets Days After Trump Railed Against Alliance

050520-N-0780F-003 Souda Bay, Crete, Greece (May 20, 2005) -- USS Taylor (FFG 50) is followed by other NATO nations' units while returning to port after the conclusion of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) and the Military Committee (MC) SEA DAY Excercise. The exercise involved vessels from Greece, Turkey, Spain, Germany, United Kingdom, and the United States that are currently assigned to Standing NATO Response Force Maritime Group Two (SNMG2). The event was held to provide an indication of the capabilities of these permanent naval assets that recently have been integrated into the NATO Response Force (NRF) and that form the core of the antiterrorist Operation Active Endeavour. U.S. Navy photo by Paul Farley

NATO is expected to announce Wednesday that a majority of its members are set to hit their defense spending goals for 2024, days after former President Donald Trump told those who don’t pay their share that he wouldn’t protect them if re-elected.

It is estimated that 18 of the 31 NATO members will hit their minimum goal of spending 2% of total gross domestic product on defense budgets for 2024, compared to roughly one-third of the alliance who hit that goal in 2023, according to three alliance officials who spoke to The Financial Times. Trump warned in a speech on Saturday that he would tell Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to members if they don’t pay their share, should he win a second term.

“NATO expects about two-thirds of allies to hit 2% in 2024,” an alliance official told the Financial Times.

Trump has long had issues with NATO members and their failure to meet the spending goal, feeling that the U.S. was footing too much of the bill. The U.S. is the largest financial backer of NATO, according to The Washington Post.

EU officials say that NATO members are working to hit their targets once more in preparation for a second Trump presidency, according to the Times. NATO members will also try to put importance on issues Trump finds the most pressing – such as China and terrorist threats – and win over his good graces.

“There’s a lot of talk about [Trump]… What is the best way to handle a future President Trump?” one senior NATO diplomat said, according to the Times. “Basically a combination of flattery and a firm hand.”

“You can’t worry about the rhetoric too much, but instead focus on the points being made and make sure you give credit to Trump if and when he is right,” former NATO chief spokesperson Oana Lungescu said, according to the Times.

Roughly two-thirds of NATO members missed their defense spending targets in 2023, according to the Post.

“NATO was busted until I came along,” Trump said at the rally. “I said, ‘Everybody’s gonna pay.’ They said, ‘Well, if we don’t pay, are you still going to protect us?’ I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ They couldn’t believe the answer.”

“One of the presidents of a big country, he stood up, he said: ‘Well sir, if we don’t pay, and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?’ I said, ‘You didn’t pay, you’re delinquent … no I would not protect you, in fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want,” Trump said.

NATO did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jake Smith on February 13, 2024


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