NATO Defense Pledge May Tax Already Strained Western Budgets

While political pundits and news analysts were busy bandying about the rhetoric that NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) leaders were making small talk of the current sitting US President, many did not note the outcomes of the two-day 2019 NATO Summit. The event ran from December 3rd to the 4th in London, with major pledges of military and defense spending. The annual summit hosted NATO heads of state at the Grove Hotel Hardforshire and Buckingham Palace, according to an official release. The summit has been taking place since its inception in 1949, shortly after World War II when the current World Order was established.

Before the collapse of the former Soviet Union, NATO was a frequent point of reference in news and military operations. The 70 year old coalition is unique in that it is an intergovernmental military organization. NATO operates as a system of collective defense aimed at interests and security of member countries. The United States was among its first 12 founding members which included the United Kingdom, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Luxembourg, Portugal and the Netherlands.

The quietly meeting resulted in new investment and pledges for increasing defense. An official release called the London Declaration from NATO declared, “We are determined to share the costs and responsibilities of our indivisible security. Through our Defense Investment Pledge, we are increasing our defense investment in line with its 2% and 20% guidelines, investing in new capabilities, and contributing more forces to missions and operations. Non-US defense expenditure has grown for five consecutive years; over 130 billion US dollars more is being invested in defense. In line with our commitment as enshrined in Article 3 of the Washington Treaty, we continue to strengthen our individual and collective capacity to resist all forms of attack. We are making good progress. We must and will do more.”

Indeed, NATO has been a proactive participant in transatlantic defense through the years. NATO defense mechanisms were key in interventions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and the Ukraine and the preemptive War in Afghanistan. Additionally, it was responsible for paramilitary training in Iraq, deployment of war ships in Somalia’ Gulf of Aden to protect commercial vessels in the Indian ocean and the Libyan Civil War which toppled the Qaddafi Regime. All of these missions with sizeable financial and human obligations

“We are increasing our cooperation with the United Nations; there is unprecedented progress in NATO-EU cooperation. We are committed to NATO’s Open Door policy, which strengthens the Alliance and has brought security to millions of Europeans.” An official December 2019 NATO Release stated.

The official statement indicated that NATO would be creating stronger military and defense alliances with the United Nations and the European Union and citing China, Russia and irregular migration as points of “challenge” for the block. It is important to note that while NATO’s political strategy and military leadership is headed in Brussels and Norfolk, Virginia (USA); it has strategic commands and operations throughout its member states which have been included more Eastern European states since the 1980s. NATO operations and its Secretary General have been quite active over the past months, hosting or making visits to Germany, Estonia, the United States and even Colombia.

It will be critical in the future to see where NATO policy will shift as Brexit changes the financial and geopolitical landscape in Europe. Additionally, as the block has pledged 130 billion dollars in defense spending, member states will need to make concessions within their own domestic budgets to accommodate. Just as the US military Operation Gladio, required an adequate defense allocation to operate sleeper cells throughout Europe after the close of World War II to combat possible threats; New military expenditures after Brexit will likely challenge already strained budgets in Europe’s debt constrained states.  Much like the US Military’s Operation Gladio which stationed sleeper cells in Europe after the close of World War II to guard against possible threat. The financial obligations of increased defense spending may prematurely hurt economies hoping to recover from the World Economic Crisis and escalate an economic slowdown in Europe.