President Trump met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg last week, offering the president an opportunity to highlight recent increases in military spending in Europe. “[W]e’ve increased and, really, raised a lot of money from countries that weren’t paying or weren’t paying a fair share. We have a little ways to go, but many billions of dollars of additional money has been raised,” Trump said.
NATO members have indeed begun to boost their defense spending, though the increase began in 2015, following a summit a year earlier at which treaty participants pledged to start spending 2 percent of GDP on defense within a decade. The 2 percent target dates back to 2002 but was non-binding until 2014, when the Russian annexation of Crimea brought new urgency to the military situation in Europe.
Overall NATO defense spending rose by 1.8 percent in 2015, 3.3 percent in 2016, and is estimated to have risen 4.3 percent in 2017. Stoltenberg gave Trump some credit for recent increases, saying he “has had a real impact.”
Here’s a look at estimated spending as a percentage of GDP among NATO nations for 2017. The U.S. ranks first, spending 3.6 of GDP on defense while accounting for roughly 60 percent of NATO’s overall expenditure. Four other NATO countries met their obligation in 2017 – Greece, Estonia, the U.K. and Poland. Stoltenberg said he expected eight countries to meet the target in 2018, and 15 or more by 2024.