Netherlands Tells NATO Members to Heed Trump Call, Pay Defence Share

A soldier of the Polish Army sits in a tank as a NATO flag flies behind during the NATO Noble Jump military exercises of the VJTF forces on June 18, 2015 in Zagan, Poland.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte told European Union countries to heed the call of U.S. leader Donald Trump and pay their fair share to sustain NATO.

“Anyone who is a member of a club has to pay the fee. We might not like it, but the days in which Europe could for a minimal fee find shelter under the American safety umbrella are over,” Prime Minister Rutte said in comments reported by Euractiv on Thursday.

Admitting that there was “no alternative” to the U.S.-backed alliance, Mr Rutte said during a lecture at the Atlantic Commission: “The Netherlands, Europe, we cannot guarantee our safety. But Europe can and should do more.”

At the 2014 Wales summit, NATO members agreed they would increase defence spending to two per cent of GDP by 2024.

In 2016, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump criticised EU nations for failing to pay their fair share towards the defence union, an alliance founded in 1949 primarily to protect Europe from then-Soviet Russia.

The USA funds around 70 per cent of NATO, according to Reuters, spending 3.4 per cent of GDP on defence. Three years ago, just five out of the then-27 members — the USA, UK, Greece, Poland, and Estonia — were hitting at least the minimum target.

Noting that President Trump “makes no secret of… the fact that the disproportionate division of costs within NATO is a thorn in his side”, Prime Minister Rutte agreed with the U.S. President’s criticisms.

“To be honest, I can only show a lot of understanding for that,” he said.

As President, Mr Trump has continued to highlight the discrepancy, calling out “delinquent” members at the NATO breakfast meeting in Brussels, Belgium, in 2018.

“Many countries are not paying what they should, and, frankly, many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money from many years back,” President Trump had said.

“They’re delinquent, as far as I’m concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them,” he added.

Since 2016, several countries have increased or pledged to increase their defence spending as a result of President Trump’s pressure on the issue. Romania hit the target in 2017, with countries like Hungary pledging to do the same in coming years.

Now expanded to 28 members, seven countries — the U.S., UK, Greece, Estonia, Poland, Romania, and Latvia — are hitting the minimum two per cent.

Notably absent in that list are Western European countries, bar the United Kingdom.

NATO estimates for 2019 reveal that countries like Germany (1.36 per cent), Denmark (1.35 per cent), and France (1.84 per cent) are below target. Non-European countries like Turkey (1.89 per cent) and Canada (1.27 per cent) also need to increase spending to meet their obligations.

While Mr Rutte has called for increased spending on defence, he admitted planned increases by the Netherlands “won’t get us to two per cent by 2024”.

Germany has said that it was going to miss the 2024 level. But in February, the country admitted that it was going to miss its own, much reduced, internal spending target as well.

Speaking to Breitbart London in June 2018, U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell said of Germany’s defence spending: “It is woeful; Germany is the largest economy in Europe. They made a commitment to NATO, and they should be serious about that commitment; it is a multilateral institution that guarantees the allies, guaranteeing freedom.”

In 2015, the media reported that German army personnel were forced to use broom handles during a NATO joint exercise in 2014 because they did not have enough training weapons.

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