World News

Trump Inaccurately Claims NATO Spending Is Increasing ‘Only Because of Me’

Posted July 17, 2018 2:17 p.m. EDT

What President Donald Trump said

“I had a great meeting with NATO. They have paid $33 Billion more and will pay hundreds of Billions of Dollars more in the future, only because of me,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “NATO was weak, but now it is strong again (bad for Russia). The media only says I was rude to leaders, never mentions the money!”

“While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia,” he wrote in a later post Tuesday. “Sadly, it is not being reported that way - the Fake News is going Crazy!”

The Facts

This is exaggerated.

Trump’s claims misrepresent how the alliance of 29 nations works and exaggerate his role in their military spending.

NATO members have not agreed to give the alliance more money, as Trump’s comment about “raising vast amounts of money” would suggest.

Rather, each NATO member pledged in 2014 to spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on its own defense each year by 2024. During the summit in Brussels last week, members reaffirmed their commitment to that pledge.

Currently, only five countries — the United States, Greece, Estonia, United Kingdom and Latvia — are meeting the 2 percent goal, although eight are expected to this year.

Throughout his presidency, Trump has relentlessly pressed NATO members to meet the goal and certainly deserves some credit for increased spending.

“President Trump has been outspoken on this issue, and I thanked him for his leadership when we met at the White House in May,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal. “The upswing in NATO defense spending over the past year and a half demonstrates that his efforts are making a difference.”

But Trump is wrong that these increases occurred “only because of me.”

As a share of GDP, spending by European members and Canada began to rise before Trump took office. The most recent report from NATO shows that their annual spending as a share of GDP has steadily increased since 2015, when it was 1.4 percent, to 1.47 percent in 2018.

The total dollars spent by European countries and Canada also have risen every year over that time period, from $254 billion in 2015, to $256 billion in 2016, to $273 billion in 2017 to $307 billion in 2018.

So Trump is also correct that these NATO members are expected to spend about $34 billion more this year than in 2017. But that is part of a yearslong trend of increases.

Sources: NATO, The Wall Street Journal