The total defense spending of all NATO member states is estimated to be $936 billion this year. The U.S. makes up about 67% of it, estimated at $623 billion as stated by NATO. In 2014, at the NATO Wales Summit, during President Obama’s Administration and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO members agreed that each NATO nation would spend 2% of their Gross National Product (GNP) towards their national defense by 2024. As of today, only eight of 29 NATO nations have met that mark. President Trump readdressed this gap of intent and defense spending that the United States has been compensating for in the overall contribution to NATO. This week NATO held its 2018 Summit in Brussels.
On Monday, President Trump meets Russian President Putin as a near peer competitor. One of the competitions they will be discussing is influence upon Europe. Russia has stepped up and ramped up its aggressive behavior steadily over the past decade towards NATO. Earlier in the week German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “The challenges for NATO have changed drastically in recent years…” and it is important “to focus more on defending the alliance. To do that, we [must] make necessary arrangements, for example through a presence in Central and Eastern European countries.”
There is and remains a present and sizable air and missile defense gap to deter Russia and for the defense of NATO forces in Europe and their maneuvering in the space, sea, air, and land domains from what Russia has demonstrated in Ukraine, deployed in Kallingrad, and regularly exercised on the eastern flank of Europe through these domains, including cyber and electronic warfare.
NATO countries of Poland and Romania are leading others by acquiring massive new missile defense systems to deter the Russian missile threat. The Baltic States and the United States are addressing the short-range and maneuvering air defense gap. The United States is reintroducing Avengers, will introduce retrofitted Strykers into the maneuvering force, and introducing land-based cruise missile defense systems into Europe. The United States Navy has four Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) ships stationed in Rota, Spain and there are no other NATO nations that have BMD interceptors on their ships, which means the United States is carrying the full burden of that responsibility.
It is of note, that these six NATO countries addressing the air and missile defense gap represent six of the eight NATO nations that are spending 2% of their GNP on defense.
There are six NATO nations – including France and Italy – that have missile defense capability and capacity beyond their national needs to support NATO, and four of them – Germany, Netherlands, Spain, and the United States have supported the missile defense mission in Turkey for NATO. Germany has the most resources, along with the most capacity and capability of air and missile defense behind the United States for NATO.
Also agreed at this summit is a Readiness Initiative – the “Four Thirties”. By 2020, NATO will have:
- 30 mechanized battalions;
- 30 air squadrons; and
- 30 combat vessels
- Ready to use within 30 days or less.
Noticeably missing is the Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) component to defend these thirties from the current air and missile threats facing Europe and ready to be used within 30 days. The units of this NATO Readiness Initiative are not viable to function without air and missile defense capability and capacity defending them. Similar to the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) that are not a credible force or deterrent without air and missile defense capability and capacity.
It is time that NATO’s European nations have air and missile defense capacity and capability that they can contribute to NATO and is more than promises and empty intent.
Europe has vast gaps in discrimination sensors on land, sea, and in space, upper tier missile defense, lower tier missile defense, maneuvering force missile defense to include over the horizon cruise missile defense, hypersonic missile defense and ballistic missile defense need to be filled by NATO nations together. Most importantly, is the establishment of a NATO European missile defense cross-domain school house in Europe, followed by a European NATO flag officer to parallel the United States flag officer for the Air and Missile Defense Command of NATO Europe.
NATO nations have to have skin in the game to deter Russia and for the defense of their nations and NATO against future threats.