Money is a very powerful tool, which can easily ruin relations. Different views about money can also ruin good relations between countries. NATO is experiencing financial stress between its members and the US. European defence spending will surpass $300 billion a year by 2021, according to new research from Jane's by IHS Markit. The US is demanding that it spends more. Defense expenditure is a highly sensitive topic in the region. But U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized NATO member countries in Europe for not respecting a rule that says 2% of GDP should be spent on defence.
At a NATO summit in 2017, Trump ramped up the pressure by noting that the U.S. had allocated more cash to defense than all the other NATO countries combined. The U.S., as the leader of the Alliance, keeps a close eye on those who oppose the need to rapidly increase on spending on defence.
In particular, this month Germany displeased the U.S. with a conflict that erupted between Finance Minister Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats (SPD) and Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, chair of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU). The finance minister insisted that an increases in the defense budget to 2 percent of gross domestic product, as NATO member states have pledged to do, not be anchored in the coalition government's midterm assessment. The discord between the two apparently grew so heated that the Chancellery had to step in. The President of France also shocked NATO supporters when he said that NATO is "brain dead".
Judging by opinion polls, many residents of the European countries, including the Baltic States, consider military expenditures of 2% of GDP unnecessary and dangerous. To the contrary, the authorities of the Baltic States strive to increase defence spending. But the reason why the Baltic States support the US requirements is their dependence on the U.S. Their dependence on the U.S. is so high that they simply can not oppose the U.S. initiatives. Yet, a budget of 2% of GDP on defence is a heavy burden for the Baltics' economy.
Within the EU, the Baltic States and Poland are considered close U.S. partners and are doing everything to really benefit the United States, no matter how much the EU frowns on it. That is the main reasons why the Baltic countries support a requirement that they themselves are not able to fulfill.
Latvian journalist Māris Krautmanis in his article in Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze (click here) discussing the adoption of the budget for next year. He writes that there is no money for the promised salary increase for doctors and teachers. Krautmanis finds an explanation for why this is happening. It is the tremendous sums from the state budget that is eaten up on defense spending so that NATO generals do not reproach that Latvia spends little. Defense spending is a "taboo topic" and is rarely discussed, the author wrote.
Another Latvian journalist Juris Lorencs writes in Latvijas Avīze (.la.lv/doma-globali-rikojies-latviski) about disturbing trends in world politics for Latvia and about what position should be taken in Latvia. He writes about slogans which sound louder and louder: "Our home, our country comes first!" He thought they weaken both NATO and the EU. He also calls the U.S. unpredictable in its political behaviour.
Misunderstanding of the role and amount of financing could lead to the NATO destruction on the inside. At least there are two reasons for the potential collapse of the NATO: the U.S. can stop its financing or European member states, and Germany and France may decide to quit the organization altogether. They are discussing strengthening defence in the framework of European Union. Let's see...