How Much Is Enough for a Nation’s Defence?

Given Australia’s reliance on the US for our defence and security, perhaps the government should heed Donald J. Trump’s advice. CommentaryThe claim that former President Donald Trump allegedly had threatened to withdraw the United States of America from NATO attracted considerable media attention. Current President Biden condemned the idea, as did many other security and defence experts. In the resulting media melee, the authenticity of the story was lost.What the story did highlight was the inadequate amount that some European nations have been spending on their defence.The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was established in 1949 as a collective security agreement. Following World War II, it was designed to ensure peace in Europe and avoid the terrible wars that had blighted the first half of the 20th century.Comprising 29 European nations and two North American countries, the Brussels-headquartered NATO operates on funds provided by its members.Related StoriesSome years ago, the NATO members agreed to provide 2 percent of GDP to defence expenditure. That target has not been achieved by most of them.Interestingly, the nations closest to Russia have the highest expenditure. According to 2023 data, Poland (3.9 percent) leads the way from Greece (3.01), Estonia (2.73), Lithuania (2.54), Finland (2.45), Romania (2.44), Hungary (2.43), and Slovakia (2.03).France expanded to just 1.9 percent of GDP, while Germany lagged at 1.57 percent. The UK spent 2.07 percent. Canada had one of the lowest expenditures at just 1.38 percent.These figures stand in stark contrast to the 3.49 percent of GDP expended by the United States.In response to the remarks, NATO’s head, Jens Stoltenberg, said last week that the number of European nations reaching the threshold of 2 percent of GDP had risen recently from 11 to 20 of the 31 member organisations.It is doubtful that if re-elected, President Trump would withdraw from NATO, but his alleged remarks have shone the spotlight on the issue. With Russia threatening Ukraine, attention to European defences is paramount.NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg leaves after a press conference ahead of NATO Defence Ministers' meeting at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Feb. 14, 2024. (Yves Herman/Reuters)Floor, Not Ceiling!The discussion has parallels in Australia where a reported dispute has broken out between the defence minister, Richard Marles, and his department.Rumours of differences have been circulating for some time, but the matter came to a head with leaks of a very tense discussion between the minister, the secretary of his department, the chief of the defence force, and other senior military leaders.The crux of the dispute is the usefulness of some of the military equipment ordered by defence and the quantum of funds available.There is a widespread view that Mr. Marles has been rebuffed by the Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet in most of his quests for defence expenditure.When the Abbott Liberal government established the figure of 2 percent of GDP for defence expenditure, it was a floor, not a ceiling. But it has often been treated as the latter.In an increasingly dangerous region, 2 percent of GDP is grossly inadequate. Australia’s defence expenditure should be closer to 3 percent of GDP.The danger, however, is that the Albanese government is not committed to the expenditure required.To date, the foreign minister seems more attracted to appeasement than the hardheaded assessment of the threats to Australia, especially from the Chinese Communist Party.Mr. Marles has also been on record as displaying sympathy towards the Beijing regime. He had little to say about Beijing establishing an upgraded presence in Timor-Leste.The dispute with the defence leadership is worrying. Defence can be a cumbersome department, unable to display the nimbleness required for a rapidly changing strategic situation, and wedded to projects whose usefulness has passed, but it and the minister should be on the same page.Given Australia’s reliance on the United States for our defence and security, perhaps the government should heed President Trump’s advice. Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

How Much Is Enough for a Nation’s Defence?

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Given Australia’s reliance on the US for our defence and security, perhaps the government should heed Donald J. Trump’s advice. 

Commentary

The claim that former President Donald Trump allegedly had threatened to withdraw the United States of America from NATO attracted considerable media attention.

Current President Biden condemned the idea, as did many other security and defence experts. In the resulting media melee, the authenticity of the story was lost.

What the story did highlight was the inadequate amount that some European nations have been spending on their defence.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was established in 1949 as a collective security agreement. Following World War II, it was designed to ensure peace in Europe and avoid the terrible wars that had blighted the first half of the 20th century.

Comprising 29 European nations and two North American countries, the Brussels-headquartered NATO operates on funds provided by its members.

Some years ago, the NATO members agreed to provide 2 percent of GDP to defence expenditure. That target has not been achieved by most of them.

Interestingly, the nations closest to Russia have the highest expenditure. According to 2023 data, Poland (3.9 percent) leads the way from Greece (3.01), Estonia (2.73), Lithuania (2.54), Finland (2.45), Romania (2.44), Hungary (2.43), and Slovakia (2.03).

France expanded to just 1.9 percent of GDP, while Germany lagged at 1.57 percent. The UK spent 2.07 percent. Canada had one of the lowest expenditures at just 1.38 percent.

These figures stand in stark contrast to the 3.49 percent of GDP expended by the United States.

In response to the remarks, NATO’s head, Jens Stoltenberg, said last week that the number of European nations reaching the threshold of 2 percent of GDP had risen recently from 11 to 20 of the 31 member organisations.

It is doubtful that if re-elected, President Trump would withdraw from NATO, but his alleged remarks have shone the spotlight on the issue. With Russia threatening Ukraine, attention to European defences is paramount.

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg leaves after a press conference ahead of NATO Defence Ministers' meeting at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Feb. 14, 2024. (Yves Herman/Reuters)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg leaves after a press conference ahead of NATO Defence Ministers' meeting at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Feb. 14, 2024. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

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Floor, Not Ceiling!

The discussion has parallels in Australia where a reported dispute has broken out between the defence minister, Richard Marles, and his department.

Rumours of differences have been circulating for some time, but the matter came to a head with leaks of a very tense discussion between the minister, the secretary of his department, the chief of the defence force, and other senior military leaders.

The crux of the dispute is the usefulness of some of the military equipment ordered by defence and the quantum of funds available.

There is a widespread view that Mr. Marles has been rebuffed by the Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet in most of his quests for defence expenditure.

When the Abbott Liberal government established the figure of 2 percent of GDP for defence expenditure, it was a floor, not a ceiling. But it has often been treated as the latter.

In an increasingly dangerous region, 2 percent of GDP is grossly inadequate. Australia’s defence expenditure should be closer to 3 percent of GDP.

The danger, however, is that the Albanese government is not committed to the expenditure required.

To date, the foreign minister seems more attracted to appeasement than the hardheaded assessment of the threats to Australia, especially from the Chinese Communist Party.

Mr. Marles has also been on record as displaying sympathy towards the Beijing regime. He had little to say about Beijing establishing an upgraded presence in Timor-Leste.

The dispute with the defence leadership is worrying. Defence can be a cumbersome department, unable to display the nimbleness required for a rapidly changing strategic situation, and wedded to projects whose usefulness has passed, but it and the minister should be on the same page.

Given Australia’s reliance on the United States for our defence and security, perhaps the government should heed President Trump’s advice. 

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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