NATO Allies Should Not Be Judged on Defense Spending Alone

Field training exercise at NATO’s exercise Saber Strike 2014. Flickr/U.S. Army Europe

It is not only how much a nation spends on defense that matters, but what that nation spends it on and its willingness to use it.

At the end of the day, European allies must do more to contribute to their own defense; the United States should not be responsible for filling in the gaps. To narrow the gaps, it makes sense to have a defense-spending target for allies to reach. But an ally’s success or failure at burden sharing should not be measured by defense spending alone. Transatlantic security can only be ensured by partners willing to undertake a full range of actions, from foreign assistance to participation in allied operations. Equitable burden sharing is the standard against which nations should be judged; increased defense spending only helps you get there.

Rachel Rizzo is the research associate with the CNAS Transatlantic Security Program. Jim Townsend is an adjunct senior fellow with the CNAS Transatlantic Security Program, and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO Policy. You can follow them on Twitter at @jteurope and @rachelrizzo.

Image: Field training exercise at NATO’s exercise Saber Strike 2014. Flickr/U.S. Army Europe

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