The Washington Post has just confirmed that in his quest to sow chaos and generally blow up NATO President Trump is now demanding that NATO raise its member state defense spending from a current goal of 2% (by 2024) of GDP to 4%. This is of course blathering nonsense. But I thought I’d try to put some numbers to this in any case.
By my admittedly extremely crude calculation this means adding roughly $625 billion of new defense spending to the aggregate military budget of all NATO member states. To put that in some perspective, the big run up in the military budget passed in President Trump’s first budget pushes Pentagon spending to $700 billion. So President Trump wants additional spending roughly on part with the entire US military budget, or at least what it was until last year. I suspect there’s no military planner in the US or Europe who would have any idea what to do with all that money.
How do I get these numbers? Again, very crude calculation. Not exaggerating. Very back of the envelope. But it gets us in the ballpark.
First, as you can see here, the great majority of NATO countries fall below the 2024 2% target (see page 3, graph 3) and range from France at a peppy 1.79% to low energy Belgium at .90% of GDP. The UK is the only major NATO state over 2% and just barely. I ballpark this as non-US NATO spending at an average of 1.5% of GDP.
Next I take total GDP for the European Union. Now, the EU and NATO do not include all the same countries. But the big countries are in both. So I’m using total GDP for the EU as a proxy for NATO states. In 2017, the PPP measure of GDP for the EU was $20.9 trillion. Let’s round that down to $20 trillion because that’s the higher of the two ways to measure GDP.
Going from 1.5% to 4% is an additional $500 billion!
The US isn’t even at 4% of GDP!
We’re at 3.57%. Push us up to 4% and depending on which year’s GDP you’re looking at (just under $20 trillion) you’re adding a good $100 billion more dollars. Toss in Canada, the US overage and I’d say you’re in the neighborhood of $625 billion. Again, that’s close to what the entire US military budget was just last year.
Again, these numbers are total nonsense and intended as nonsense. It’s not a real proposal. It’s just the US President’s effort to toss another smoke bomb into the summit.