It’s time we ditch the two percent (or any percent) of GDP metric for allied defense spending and focus on what really matters—capability, capacity, readiness, and interoperability. In the end, it’s not about how much of our allies’ economic output is directed to defense, and this metric does little to incentivize the results we want to see.
Discussion over transatlantic security spending has increasingly focused on whether NATO members are spending 2% of their GDP on defense and the merits of 2% as a metric for assessing burden sharing. In addition to analyzing current NATO metrics, this report examines several alternatives that provide a broader understanding of collective security contributions and could improve the rigor of security spending analysis.
The official 2 percent threshold, while mandated at the 2014 Wales Summit, has long been understood as an unofficial spending target for NATO members. According to 2017 estimates illustrated in the graphic, only four of the 28 NATO member states meet the 2 percent spending level while 15 are expected to meet it by 2024..
The CSIS report compiles NATO member and partner countries’ troop contributions across a range of military operations. Where data was publicly available and reliable, it measures troop contribution as a percentage of the total active duty force to normalize and compare between countries with militaries of different size.
Conflict and instability to Europe’s south – in North Africa and in Syria – has generated population movements into Europe with which our allies have struggled. Some NATO members are bearing a particularly significant burden from the refugee crisis. Managing the crisis is a significant security investment for them and Europe as a whole.