The predominant conclusion emerging in the aftermath of the 2018 NATO Summit in Brussels is that the alliance continues to move into the future without cohesive political, and military platforms. Relations between the United States, and a number of European member-nations remain tense, and strained even after the summit. Although the source of this anxiety is outside of the NATO realm, it nevertheless had a major impact on talks in Brussels. The wave of speculation in European media, and political circles regarding the future of US forces in Germany, and the overall US position in NATO, that preceded the summit did not help matters either.
President Trump wasted no time in bringing up the disparity which exists in the defense spending of member-nations. NATO nations are expected to devote 2% of their respective GDPs to defense spending. Since the end of the Cold War, the 2 percent commitment has lagged, with the majority of NATO nations spending less than the 2% for years. There has been some movement towards fixing the problem since 2014, though nothing concrete. Germany, a principal NATO member, has allowed its military readiness to diminish severely. France, and Great Britain, are faring no better.
There have been a number of pledges made in Paris, London, Berlin, and other capitals to increase defense spending. The financial equation, though, is only part of the problem. Money alone does not bring about a better defense. Rebuilding a military takes far more effort on a series of fronts, from replacing obsolete equipment with newer systems, to upgrading training standards. It is a national commitment in every sense, yet few of NATO’s principal European members appear willing to undertake a major effort.
Trump has received pledges from a host of his fellow NATO leaders, promising to increase their defense spending significantly. Time will tell if these promises were genuine or not.