Why is Trump upset with NATO?

NATO Headquarters

President Trump has spent the last week touring Europe. He took part in a NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium on the 11th and 12th of July, 2018. At the NATO summit leaders from twenty-nine member countries met to discuss security challenges in Europe and North America. There has been a lot of buzz around President Trump’s behaviour at the summit. Let’s understand what happened.

NATO Symbol

What is NATO?

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), is a military alliance between 29 countries such as the United States of America, Canada, and other European countries. Through this alliance, the member countries agreed to protect and support each other in case of a crisis such as an attack by an external party.

The agreement was signed in 1949 by the U.S. and 11 countries, right after World War II.  It was originally created then to prevent the Soviet Union (current day Russia and 14 other Eastern European countries) from dominating the European continent, and to provide security to its member countries.

Over the years several European countries have joined NATO increasing the tally to 29 member countries. The most recent nation to join was Montenegro in 2017.

How does NATO work?

NATO embodies the bond between North America and Europe. Today it is less about protecting Europe from Russia and more about maintaining peace in the region. Through the NATO alliance, the U.S. guarantees that the full weight of their military is available to European member countries.  In exchange, members allow the U.S. to station troops in Europe in support of missions within Europe as well as in the Middle East and Africa.

NATO members also volunteer equipment or troops for joint military operations and bear the costs of that. For example, NATO forces help the US fight wars and terrorism in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

In addition, all members contribute funds towards NATO’s direct expenses for shared combat forces, security programs, cyber safety cells and the headquarters in Brussels, etc.

Credit: https://www.statista.com/chart/14636/defense-expenditures-of-nato-countries/

Why is President Trump upset and threatening to leave the alliance?

President Trump believes that the way that NATO currently works is unfair to the United States. Various reports say that the United States pays a larger share of NATO’s bills than any other country does. 

Trump’s biggest cause for concern is that allied countries aren’t spending enough on their own defence. He has demanded that U.S. allies in Western Europe, specially countries like Germany  increase their defence spending immediately and stop relying on the US to sponsor defence bills.

As per official NATO reports, allies had already begun spending more on defence since 2014. The other member countries are committed to increasing their defence spending to at least 2 per cent of their gross domestic product by 2024. 

What is GDP? It measures the value of the products and services made by a country. 

What are the consequences if the NATO alliance breaks down?

The U.S. has helped maintain peace in the European continent since WWII. If the alliance breaks down, there will be military and economic instability in the region. 

Many countries believe that this is just Trump’s blustery way of trying to get the other countries to pay for more of NATO’s spending. 

Written By: Biyash Choksey

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