Describing NATO as “out-fashioned” during his election campaign, Donald Trump immediately took action once elected the President of the United States. Following German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to the White House, Trump used social media to announce that Germany was highly indebted to NATO and the USA for its defence requirements. According to hearsay, he will make his first official visit abroad to Belgium, in the framework of the NATO Summit to take place in Brussels in May. Speaking at another NATO Summit in February, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis also maintained that the United States may reconsider its NATO commitments in case European leaders failed to spend more money for the Alliance. Yet, where does this aggressive approach concerning NATO’s financing stem from?
In fact, the root cause of this aggressive behaviour is an advisory resolution taken during a NATO meeting at the level of defence ministers on June 8, 2016. In line with this decision, NATO obtained guarantees from allied states to “make efforts” for contributing 2 percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for defence. This decision, as underlined by the NATO Spokesperson of the time and current NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy James Appathurai, was the first such decision taken by NATO and it was not binding at all. German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen did not pay much heed to this intended or unintended misunderstanding, refusing to take responsibility by giving references to the 2006 decision. Nevertheless, all diplomatic circles regarded this as a message delivered by the United States particularly to European NATO allies. Only time can tell what this shall bring.