Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, is no fan of NATO. In recent weeks, he’s suggested that U.S. involvement in the alliance may need to be reduced. “NATO is costing us a fortune,” Trump said in an interview with the Washington Post, “and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money.”
At a town hall event sponsored by MSNBC, Trump went even further, declaring, “We don’t really need NATO in its current form. . . . [Y]ou have countries that are getting a free ride.”
Now on one level, Trump is correct: A lot of European countries are certainly getting, if not a free ride, some priceless security guarantees at a relative bargain. Though NATO countries are supposed to spend 2 percent of their GDP on their defense budget, only four of the alliance’s 27 members besides the United States actually do so. The result is that the United States gets stuck paying a disproportionate share of NATO’s costs—around 22 percent. And when military action is undertaken, as in Libya, the U.S. is usually is forced to handle the lion’s share of military responsibilities.