On Tuesday, Robert Gates took a whack at America’s NATO allies, accusing them of spending too little on defense. Justin Logan observed yesterday that this is largely by design—we’ve urged Europe not to develop any defense capabilities that are independent of NATO or duplicative of NATO so this gives them little incentive to invest. And Fred Kaplan observes that the issue of a defensive alliance like NATO performing poorly in an expeditionary role is a structural question that has little to do with individual spending decisions.
But I’d like to press on another issue. Is it actually true that NATO members are skimping on defense. Looking at the list of the top 15 defense spenders it seems to me that if you ignore the United States, the spending of our NATO allies and our Major Non-NATO Allies (Australia, Japan, South Korea) is very much in line with what you see from other countries:
Notably, if the United States spent $0 per year on defense NATO would still be the most powerful military alliance on the planet.