Last week, President Donald Trump created some controversy when he attended a NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) meeting in Brussels. At one time during his presidential campaign, Trump questioned the rationale of continued US membership in NATO, which also raised some concern and controversy.
In April 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty was signed as a military alliance treaty of 12 nations – Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Norway, United Kingdom, and the United States. Since that time, NATO has grown to 28 member nations.
The purpose of NATO was to help protect European nations from the threat of communist Soviet Union. World War II was over and Germany was defeated, but seeing what the Soviet Union did with East Germany and East Berlin alarmed some European nations, driving them to form the North Atlantic Treaty which gave rise to NATO.
Even though NATO is primarily a military treaty, it also serves as a trade and economic partnership among many of the nations. The NATO alliance agreed that each nation should pay about 2% of their GDP (gross domestic product), but payment is not mandatory. The GDP is defined as the total monetary value of all goods and services produced by a nation over a specific period of time, usually a year or even a quarter. Currently, the UD GDP is around $18.87 trillion which is 3% over the previous year.
At the heart of NATO is Article 5, which requires all member nations to come to the aid of any member nation in the event of an armed attack. It was Article 5 that President George W. Bush used to call for aid after the 9-11 attacks. NATO forces joined the US in their effort to take down Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the action taken in Afghanistan.
Every US President that traveled to Brussels for the regular NATO conference, strongly affirmed Article 5 and the US support for the member nations. However, President Trump, in his typical non-conformist way, did not come out and directly support Article 5, but did assure member nations that the US would be there to help protect any member in the event they are attacked.
Trump has received a lot of criticism over his indirect support of Article 5, but most of the criticism he has been receiving over his speech at NATO has to do with him telling the other nations to pay their way.
NATO has a military budget of $1.4 billion for 2017 and a civilian budget of $252 million for 2017. However, it is estimated that NATO will spend about $921 billion in 2017.
The United States is currently paying NATO 3.61% of the GDP. Only four other nations are meeting the 2% of GDP target (Greece – 2.36%; Estonia – 2.18%; United Kingdom – 2.17% and Poland – 2.01%). All of the other NATO member nations are paying less than the 2% target, for example, France is paying 1.79%; Turkey – 1.69%; Germany – 1.2%; Italy – 1.11% and Canada is only paying 1.02%.
So how does the average US voter feel about NATO and the US membership in it?
Rasmussen Reports asked likely voters 2 questions concerning NATO:
“1* Do you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable opinion of NATO?
2* The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created by the United States and its Western European allies in 1949 to prevent the further expansion of the Communist Soviet Union. Now that the Soviet Union is gone, is there still a need for the United States to belong to NATO?”
In response to the first question, 68% said they had a very or somewhat favorable opinion of NATO. Only 22% had a very or somewhat unfavorable opinion of NATO, with the rest having no opinion. The 68% very and somewhat favorable opinion of NATO is 15 points higher than when they same question was asked in March 2014.
In response to the second question that since the Soviet Union no longer exists, 68% said they believe there is still a need to for the US to belong to NATO. Only 16% said they believe NATO is no longer necessary.
The Soviet Union may no longer exist but communist Russia does and after seeing the Russian invasion into parts of the Ukraine, they still pose a threat to the rest of the European and Eurasian nations.
How do you feel about NATO?