Why do most NATO members fail to spend the agreed target of 2% of GDP on defense? Could the member states that do meet the target do anything about this?

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    Daily reminder that the EU couldn't even conduct a no-fly zone over Libya without US logistical and direct military intervention. Commented May 25, 2017 at 13:35
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    Here's the Wales Summit Declaration that has the info nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_112964.htm
    – user9790
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 14:06
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    the title and the body are quite different questions. what is the real question here?
    – Federico
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 20:15
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    @Andy - Eisenhower might argue anything over 0% is too much. But considering anything that's "per GDP" will be a pretty volatile figure (depending on how your economy happens to be doing this year), and the USA is naturally going to be expecting to go beyond the bare minimum, 1ish% off isn't too bad.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 21:52
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    @T.E.D. your comment "USA's expenditure, while huge in absolute terms, is only 3.3% of GDP. So they really aren't that far over 2% themselves" is ridiculous. Imagine your in the meeting with your boss someone tells. TED's work is not really that great. He is just barely doing 50% better that what was expected from him. Commented May 25, 2017 at 21:54

3 Answers 3

  1. They aren't legally obliged to: Nowhere in the NATO Treaty does it mention that they have to put 2% towards defense, it is simply the recommended sum.

    • As a part of this several NATO countries have populations which believe that 2% isn't a requirement to have a functional military e.g. Canada
    • Other NATO countries like Germany claim that:

      "Two per cent would mean military expenses of some € 70 billion. I don't know any German politician who would claim that is reachable nor desirable"

    And point out that Germany has spent lots on refugees thanks to failed military interventions i.e. they are anti-war in the first place.

  2. Nope they can't enforce sanctions on each other, because what's to stop some country from refusing straight up and leaving NATO? and nobody wants that.

  • What is the source of this recommendation? It's surely non-binding, but how (semi-)official is it?
    – Szymon
    Commented May 26, 2017 at 10:29
  • I would say obliged but not compelled. Note that Germany agreed to the Wales Summit spending floors. Are they not obliged to honor that commitment?
    – user9790
    Commented May 26, 2017 at 11:49
  1. Because the voters of said countries prefer their taxes being employed elsewhere. In many countries here in Europe raising defense expenditure is one of the few things that governments would love to do, to make good friends with the USA as well as projecting a more powerful image, but they're really afraid of potential voters backlash. You can raise defense spending if you are raising also everything else (and not borrowing), so is, in an economic boom, and even then you're probably being frown upon. Raising the defense budget while making cuts elsewhere is election-suicidal.
  2. No. NATO treaty doesn't implement any kind of sanction if the spending targets are not met. In fact, the original treaty does not say anything about how much any member should spend in defense and its actual target of 2% of GDP was agreed much later. "Finally, I should add that Allies through the comprehensive political guidance have committed to endeavour, to meet the 2% target of GDP devoted to defence spending. Let me be clear, this is not a hard commitment that they will do it. But it is a commitment to work towards it." [2006-11-08]

Of course, said countries could try to press the rest in one way or another, but it's mainly a question of political will and negotiation. Merkel said to Trump Germany was going to try to increase its military spending. They are going to "try". If they fail, there's no clause on the NATO treaty Germany could be found at fault for that.

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    The 2% isn't even mentioned in the treaty.
    – user11249
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 13:35
  • This answer should include references to back-up the claims being made. Do the voters of those countries prefer their taxes being used elsewhere? Is it really true that the NATO treaty doesn't include sanctions? Commented May 25, 2017 at 13:39
  • True. The targets were agreed upon within NATO council talks, if I recall correctly, but every country did whatever it pleased.
    – Rekesoft
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 13:39
  • @indigochild As Carpetsmoker points, the original treaty didn't even have spenditure minimum targets, so there's no provision for sanctions.
    – Rekesoft
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 13:45

As per the 2014 Welsh NATO summit, members not yet committed to 2% of GDP for defence expenditure were to undertake

  1. to not let their defence spending drop below the present level, and
  2. to work towards attaining at least 2% of GDP by year 2024.

It seems unreasonable for the US to claim these members are not meeting their commitments.

  • 3
    Could you cite some sources? Commented May 26, 2017 at 0:19

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