Last week, the NATO alliance expanded to 32 nations when Sweden’s bid to join was accepted by Turkey’s president, Recep Erdogan. Last April, Finland because country No. 31 when it joined the alliance but Erdogan at the time held up Sweden’s membership in a bid to push for Turkey’s membership in the European Union.
In March, 13 months after Russian tanks crossed into Ukraine headed for Kyiv, NATO members were urged by NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg to increase their defense spending in light of Russia’s war in neighboring Ukraine.
In light of NATO’s lack of defense spending, national security analyst Kirk Lippold tells AFN it is obvious Europe is concerned about Russia but it’s also obvious they are not serious about increasing their military spending.
So he has an idea for the U.S. to propose.
“That no nation belonging to NATO can invoke Article 5 for protection against an attack,” he proposes, “unless they are meeting the 2% GDP defense mark."
Article 5 refers to the famous portion of the NATO treaty in which all signers agree to come to the aid of any NATO member that is attacked by a foe.
NATO dates back to 1949, after World War II, when the Soviet Union and its “Iron Curtain” threatened Western Europe in what is now known as the Cold War. Even after the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991, NATO not only remained in place but had expanded by 14 more nations by 2020.
Russia, incidentally, claims NATO’s expansion over the years violates an 1990s agreement not to do so and has cited that alleged violation as a reason for invading Ukraine.
“What happened to the assurances our Western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?” Vladimir Putin angrily asked at the Munich Security Conference in 2007.
NATO has continually denied it agreed to halt any expansion of NATO, including among the Baltic countries that border Russia.
In March, the U.S. Army announced it was establishing its first permanent base near the Polish city of Poznan, where approximately 10,000 U.S. soldiers are now stationed.
Last week, President Biden raised eyebrows when he signed an executive order ordering 3,000 Reservists to Europe on active duty for "Operation Atlantic Resolve." That is the name of the ongoing effort to build up troops in Europe after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Trump ended decade of broken promises
In 2006, during the George W. Bush administration, NATO defense ministers agreed to commit a minimum of 2% of their Gross Domestic Product to defense spending to continue to ensure the alliance's military readiness. That promise and goal never happened, however, including under President Barack Obama who pointed out only five NATO nations were spending the required 2% by 2016.
After a decade of ignoring U.S. demands, NATO then witnessed President Donald Trump point out their broken promises compared to lopsided military spending by the United States. In his usual non-diplomatic manner, Trump threatened to pull U.S. troops from NATO and out of Europe unless our NATO allies met their promised obligations.
Recalling those threats from Trump, Lippold says NATO began to pay attention.
“And while President Trump pushed – albeit not in the most artful way – to get them to pay up, they began to do it,” he says of Trump’s threats.
According to a July 7 Euronews.com story about NATO spending, seven NATO members hit 2% spending in 2022 and 11 members should hit that figure during the 2023 fiscal year. The countries spending the most for military readiness are the U.S., United Kingdom, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Finland.
Among the NATO members in Europe, Poland is outspending all of its neighbors to the point its GDP spending is matching U.S. military spending, according to the article.
If a Russia vs. NATO war breaks out, Poland would likely be a violent and deadly front line in the fight. Poland shares a 144-mile border with Russia and its isolated Kaliningrad region to the north. Poland also shares a 247-mile border with Russian ally Belarus, where Russia began moving battlefield tactical nuclear weapons in June.