I’m certain that a lot of what has been perceived as anti-NATO rhetoric is actually Trump trying to get NATO countries to live up to their obligations.
Meeting Donald Trump’s demands on defense spending could allow NATO-member Denmark to buy a dozen F-35 fighter jets and four frigates. It could also damage the cherished welfare state.
During his presidential campaign, the victorious Republican candidate raised alarm among allies by suggesting that the U.S. would think twice about defending a North Atlantic Treaty Organization member that failed to live up to the group’s commitment to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense.
This is a long-standing source of frustration for the U.S., since only a handful of NATO’s 28 members regularly meet the target. But Trump is the first to have raised existential questions about the alliance since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Denmark last met the NATO spending target in the final years of the Cold War, when Soviet forces were stationed across the Baltic Sea. Since then, the ratio of Danish spending has dropped consistently and totaled 23.2 billion kroner ($3.31 billion), or 1.2 percent of GDP, in 2015.
Welfare Trumps Defense
Helge Pedersen, a Copenhagen-based chief economist at Nordea Bank AB, estimates that meeting the 2 percent mark again would require about 15 billion kroner in extra defense spending.
That’s how much Denmark spends each year on supporting its universities, or five years of child support for its families.