A few years ago, in the face of new Russian aggression, the heads of the NATO member states met in Wales at the 2014 North Atlantic Council Summit. They reaffirmed that countries with military spending below 2% of their respective GDPs have to increase their defense expenditures to meet NATO guidelines.
As of 2019, only six European nations meet this goal, namely The UK, Greece, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. My home country, Germany, is among those nations whose governments still refuse to pay their fair share.
More than half of all American troops in Europe are stationed in bases across Germany, and the mere presence of American forces is crucial to its security. Among other things, Germany is prohibited from owning nukes, so, for nuclear deterrence, it’s relying on the United States through a NATO program called nuclear sharing. Under this policy, American nuclear weapons are stored in Germany, and in case of war, the President of the United States authorizes their use by the German Armed Forces.
However, Germany and other countries in Europe shouldn’t just rely on its American allies for their conventional defense, too. Every NATO country—especially those like Germany that are among the most politically and economically powerful in Europe—should maintain a military force as strong as possible to face the current international threats together with their allies.
Yet, Germany’s military is underfunded and rattled with failures and shortages. At times, none of the German submarines were able to operate. Then there have been cases where pilots would have to exercise with rented helicopters of the General German Automobile Club (ADAC) to keep their licenses because there were very few functioning military helicopters. The German Air Force has problems managing its airplanes too. As a result of poor maintenance and a shortage of rockets in 2018, there were only 4 out of 182 Eurofighter jets ready for combat missions. Most of the equipment and working vehicles are going straight to international deployments to enable the continuing operations.
There is a new divide between a lot of European NATO nations and the US. On the one hand, because of President Trump’s rhetoric critical of NATO; and on the other hand, because of the failure of many European countries to achieve the NATO goals on military funding. In other words, European politicians are essentially saying, “We won’t live up to our commitments, but don’t dare to criticize NATO!”
According to polls, 8 in 10 Americans support NATO, while surveys show Europeans would overwhelmingly opt for neutrality in a hypothetical US-Russia conflict. European politicians also increasingly like to use the narrative of the EU facing China, Russia, and the US as adversaries. And instead of a closer Atlantic cooperation, they like to proclaim that “the world needs more Europe.”
Officials on both sides of the Atlantic have to send a clear message that we need NATO to stand united and see each other as the allies we are, not as the rivals our enemies would like us to be. And this also means the US is right to demand that all NATO countries live up to the commitments they made to their allies and pay their fair share to our common defense.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.