The US spent $686 billion on defense last year — here's how the other NATO countries stack up

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump wants the 28 other NATO countries to spend more on defense.
  • The military alliance will meet in Brussels next week.
  • Trump has frequently dressed down NATO counterparts and threatened to reduce U.S. military support if allies do not increase spending.
  • As of June 2017, only six nations met NATO spending standards: the U.S., Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Poland and Romania.
A U.S. helicopter from the Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron Seven One lands on a Navy vessel.
Department of Defense photo

The world's most powerful military alliance will convene in Brussels next week – and President Donald Trump will be pushing the 28 other NATO members to spend more money.

"I'm going to tell NATO, ‘You gotta start paying your bills. The United States is not going to take care of everything,' ” Trump said Thursday during a rally in Great Falls, Montana.

In 2017, the U.S. accounted for 51.1 percent of NATO's combined GDP and 71.7 percent of its combined defense expenditure. In short, the U.S. contributed more funds to NATO than Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Canada combined.

Meanwhile, the U.S. spent $685.9 billion on defense.

Based on current prices and exchange rates. 

"We're paying anywhere from 70 to 90 percent to protect Europe, and that's fine. Of course, they kill us on trade” Trump said. "We have $151 billion in trade deficits with the EU and on top of that, they kill us with NATO," Trump said referencing the budding trade war.

Trump, has frequently dressed down NATO counterparts and threatened to reduce U.S. military support if allies do not increase spending, singled out German Chancellor Angela Merkel during Thursday's rally.

"I said, you know, Angela, I can't guarantee it, but we're protecting you, and it means a lot more to you than protecting us because I don't know how much protection we get by protecting you," Trump said.

"They [Germany] want to protect against Russia, and yet they pay billions of dollars to Russia, and we are the schmucks that are paying for the whole thing,” Trump told the crowd.

Trump's comments come on the heels of reports that the Pentagon is assessing "the cost and impact of a large-scale withdrawal or transfer of American troops stationed in Germany."

Jens Stoltenberg: NATO strength comes from overcoming differences

However, Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, the permanent U.S. representative to NATO, told reporters during a White House briefing Thursday that there were no such discussions.

“There is nothing being said at all about the troop alignment in Germany or anything that would change the 32,000-troop force that we have in Germany,” Hutchison said.

When pressed, Hutchison insisted that she would know about a partial or full withdrawal of U.S. troops in Germany. "I've heard nothing different about that. And certainly, I think that I would have to,” she added.

During the call with reporters, Hutchison noted that of the 29 NATO nations, 16 are on track to meet spending standards that were agreed upon at the 2014 NATO summit in Wales.

The pledge called for all allies to stop cutting defense budgets, gradually increase spending, and aim to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense by 2024.

Defense expenditure as a share of GDP in 2014 and 2017.

"Every one of our allies, 100 percent are increasing defense spending and so that is something we will talk about as an achievement but also, we need to do more," Hutchison said, describing the funding as "the biggest increase in defense spending by our allies since the Cold War."

As of June 2017, NATO’s most recent estimate, only six nations met the 2 percent target: the United States, Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Poland and Romania. The latter two countries barely met the goal by contributing 2.01 percent and 2.02 percent respectively.

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