When I was serving on active duty as a U.S. Naval flight officer in the 1960’s, I once asked an admiral, who had come to speak to our squadron, how the country decided how much to spend on defense each year. The admiral told me that the Pentagon received a certain percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). But, when I asked what the Department of Defense (DOD) would do if the GDP went down, but the threat did not, he replied that he did not believe that the GDP could ever go down.
I was reminded of this conversation during the recent North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit when the twenty-nine member nations all agreed to support the goal of increasing their defense budgets to 2 percent of the GDP by no later than 2024. While President Trump claimed credit for getting the members of the alliance to support this goal, the fact of the matter is that NATO actually adopted this goal in 2014. That was during the Obama administration when Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea, and since that time America’s NATO allies have increased their defense spending by $87 billion.
The above excerpt was originally published in The National Interest.
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