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Western Europe and the United States have a strained partnership. The problems in the alliance manifest in a number of ways and on a range of issues. Most threatening are security concerns. The reluctance of Western European NATO allies to contribute troops or funding to the alliance places the burden for financial and strategic defense responsibilities squarely on the American military and U. S. taxpayer. Thoughts on this issue?

Facts show that other NATO countries are paying their fair share of the NATO budget based on national income. In contention is a "soft" goal that all member nations increase funding to two percent of their GDP by 2024. To date, only five nations have complied. Arguably, having the US pay the largest percentage of the NATO budget is a good investment. It supports core US strategic interests by offering the country important military leverage in Europe.

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Admittedly, presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have called on the NATO allies to shoulder more of the NATO economic burden. Under President Trump, that cry has become louder and somewhat distorted, according to reputable sources such as The New York Times.

NATO has 28 members and the United States pays 22 percent of the cost—the largest share. However, costs are allocated based on national income, and as the US has the largest economy, it pays the most for financing the alliance. Despite US political grandstanding, the other European nations are contributing their allocated shares and paying them on time. There may have been a time when some European economies could not pay their shares on time, but that is not the case today.

The current basis of the complaints is a soft target goal set in 2014 that each NATO country assign two percent of its gross domestic product to NATO funding. This was a response to fears of Russian aggressions against the Ukraine. Only five countries have hit the target—two of them, not surprisingly, are Poland and Estonia, which are close to Russia. The rest of the countries have until 2024 to comply.

It is true that the American taxpayer is paying for a large minority of the NATO defense budget. However, there is absolutely no indication that reducing the US share of the alliance would reduce the US military budget—under the Trump administration it has grown while NATO expenses are flatlined.

The question that must be asked is the following: if the administration were serious about reducing US defense spending, which is a worthy goal advocated even by some in the military, what should be cut? Many would argue it is the large defense budget for Middle East operations, not NATO. Many also argue that military contractors make bloated profits on the backs of the American taxpayer by overcharging for military goods.

Arguably, NATO, a prestigious and successful alliance pioneered by the United States with our most important allies and partners, is worth the cost of funding, especially as Russia has become more volatile and aggressive in recent years.

Further, while the US pays the most for NATO, the "golden rule" also comes into effect: the "man" who has the gold makes the rules. It is arguably important for US interests that the US be a major funding source for a major alliance, as this allows us to call the shots within the alliance.

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