Trump vows to bolster the military by boosting the Pentagon's budget and reassessing foreign alliances

U.S. Navy Aviation Electronics Technician signals to the crew of an EA-18G Growler on the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.
Department of Defense photo

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said in his State of the Union address on Tuesday that he plans to rebuild the U.S. military by increasing the Pentagon's budget and by reassessing military alliances and agreements with foreign nations.

The Trump administration has approved two defense-friendly budget bills that have elevated the Pentagon's spending power to $700 billion in 2018 and $717 billion in 2019.

"We are also getting other nations to pay their fair share," Trump said pivoting to the defense budgets of NATO allies.

"For years, the United States was being treated very unfairly by NATO, but now we have secured a $100 billion dollar increase in defense spending from NATO allies," Trump said.

In July, Trump threatened to reduce U.S. military support if allies did not increase defense spending and pushed for the 28 other members to spend more money.

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.

While U.S. spending in constant dollar terms has risen slightly since 2014, its share of NATO's overall spending has fallen. When measured as a share of gross domestic product, the U.S. still spends more than the 2 percent target. But its contribution has fallen from 4.78 percent of GDP in 2011 to 3.50 percent this year, according to figures provided by NATO.

In all, the U.S. spent $685.9 billion on defense in 2017.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said of Trump's speech: "In his State of Union address tonight, President Trump reaffirmed his unwavering commitment to support our troops and to protect American national security interests at home and abroad. Under President Trump's leadership, we are focused on the full implementation of the National Defense Strategy: increasing lethality, strengthening alliances and partnerships, and reforming the way we do business."

Broken nuclear treaty

Trump also addressed the recent withdrawal from a crucial nuclear weapons treaty between the world's two biggest nuclear powers.

"Decades ago the United States entered into a treaty with Russia in which we agreed to limit and reduce our missile capabilities. While we followed the agreement to the letter, Russia repeatedly violated its terms. That is why I announced that the United States is officially withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF Treaty," Trump said.

"As part of our military build-up, the United States is developing a state-of-the-art missile defense system. Under my administration, we will never apologize for advancing America's interests," Trump added.

The INF treaty, signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, prohibited the development and deployment of ground-launched nuclear missiles with ranges of 310 miles to 3,420 miles. The agreement forced each country to dismantle more than 2,500 projectiles, and kept nuclear-tipped cruise missiles off the European continent for three decades.

In October, Trump said the U.S. would withdraw from the Cold War-era pact, and sent national security advisor John Bolton to personally deliver the decision to the Kremlin. Russia, Trump said, has violated the arms agreement by building and fielding the banned weapons "for many years."

Russia's President Vladimir Putin listens while then-U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, in 2019.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

NATO has also called on Moscow to "return urgently to full and verifiable compliance."

"It is now up to Russia to preserve the INF Treaty," NATO foreign ministers said in a joint statement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin maintains that Moscow has not violated the treaty, but will start developing new missiles in the wake of the INF's suspension.

"Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others, or perhaps we can't, in which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far," Trump said.

Read more: Russia, US suspend nuclear treaty in a diplomatic standoff sparking jitters over a new arms race