They know that President Trump speaks the truth, and can’t deny it. NATO realizes that they need the United States and must come to an agreement in order to preserve the organization. While there is quibbling about the exact percentage, it is true, and can’t be denied, that the United States pays the largest portion of NATO defense spending, whether directly or indirectly.
[Data and more video below the fold]
Trump-Stoltenberg breakfast meeting:
In their report on June 27, NATO states that the United States pays about 22% of their direct budget (the 2% of GDP that is often discussed; also called common funding), but much more of the indirect budget. These contributions are the largest and come, for instance, when a member volunteers equipment or troops to a military operation and bears the costs of the decision to do so. Indirect funding is at the discretion of the member country. In summary:
The combined wealth of the non-US Allies, measured in GDP, exceeds that of the United States. However, non-US Allies together spend less than half of what the United States spends on defence. This imbalance has been a constant, with variations, throughout the history of the Alliance and more so since the tragic events of 11 September 2001, after which the United States significantly increased its defence spending. The gap between defence spending in the United States compared to Canada and European members combined has therefore increased.
Today, the volume of the US defence expenditure effectively represents some 67 per cent of the defence spending of the Alliance as a whole in real terms¹. This does not mean that the United States covers 67 per cent of the costs involved in the operational running of NATO as an organisation, including its headquarters in Brussels and its subordinate military commands, but it does mean that there is an over-reliance by the Alliance as a whole on the United States for the provision of essential capabilities, including for instance, in regard to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; air-to-air refuelling; ballistic missile defence; and airborne electronic warfare.
Direct (common) NATO funding. What each country pays: