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Trump Scores a Win From NATO, but Fireworks Ahead

Michael Rainey

Ahead of NATO’s 70th-anniversary meeting in London this week, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced last Thursday that the U.S. will contribute less to the alliance’s relatively small central budget.

Member nations collectively provide NATO’s $2.5 billion budget, which covers the cost of operating the headquarters in Brussels and a handful of joint military operations. Contributions have been based on the size of each country’s economy, with the U.S. proving the largest share at 22%. Starting in 2021, the U.S. contribution will be reduced to 16%, while Germany’s share will rise to the same level, up from 14.8% currently. Other members of the alliance will make up the rest.

Steven Erlanger of the New York Times said the move appears to be an effort to placate President Trump, who has complained that NATO nations are not paying their fair share for defense. NATO leaders are reportedly bracing for what could be tense discussions about military spending at the meetings this week. "The betting is that there are going to be some fireworks," James Townsend, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO, told CNN.

Overall defense spending is a separate issue from the central budget, though, and is driven by each member’s individual defense budget. Total defense spending among member nations will top more than $1 trillion in 2019, according to NATO estimates. NATO nations have agreed to spend 2% of their national budgets on defense by 2024, with only eight of the 29 members currently doing so.

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