President Donald Trump on Monday rebuked European allies on the eve of a NATO summit, complaining that the United States spends more on collective defense than its 28 North Atlantic partners.
"The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other Country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable," Trump tweeted a day before departing on a seven-day European trip to Belgium, the United Kingdom and Finland. "While these countries have been increasing their contributions since I took office, they must do much more."
Trump singled out Germany, which spent an estimated 1.24 percent of its 2017 economic output on defense, according to the latest figures from NATO. Comparably, the United States spent an estimated 3.57 percent.
And he connected the issue to his protectionist trade policies, noting that the European Union has a trade surplus with the United States.
Trump claimed that the United States is "paying for 90 percent of NATO," but his numbers are off. The United States direct contribution to NATOs operational expenses is 22 percent. Indirect spending — the entire amount spent on collective defense — is 67 percent of that spent by the 29 NATO allies.
Trump departs Tuesday for Brussels, where hell attend a NATO leaders summit focusing on countering Russian power in Ukraine, nuclear arms and cyber activity.
Trumps tweets echoed his comments at a campaign rally in Montana last Thursday, when he said he would tell NATO allies, "You got to start paying your bills. The United States is not going to take care of everything."
There, Trump again targeted German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"I said, You know, Angela, I cant guarantee it, but were protecting you, and it means a lot more to you than protecting us because I dont know how much protection we get by protecting you," he sad last week.
Trump has often misrepresented the 2014 burden-sharing agreement by NATO allies, claiming it requires European countries to pay "dues" either to NATO or the United States. In fact, the agreement requires NATO countries to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024.
Only five countries — the United States, United Kingdom, Greece, Estonia and Poland — now meet the 2 percent guideline. But the European contribution has been creeping up slowly in recent years, from 1.42 percent of their economies in 2015 to 1.46 percent in 2017. And as those economies have grown, Europe is contributing $14 billion more to defense than two years ago.