Every year, leaders of countries that belong to the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) meet to discuss issues facing the region. This year, the meeting was held on July 11-12 in Brussels, Belgium.
In days leading up to the summit, President Trump had been making comments indicating that the U.S spends more money than any other nation on NATO. He feels that the burden-sharing is not fair from the United States point of view and this needs to be changed.
This has created friction with other European leaders who believe Trump does not understand how NATO works. So, what exactly is NATO and what is its role?
The Origin Of NATO
The year was 1949. Countries around the world were still reeling from the effects of World War II. The US and Soviet Union, which had been allies during the war, disagreed in philosophy.
They also differed in what the post-war world – especially Europe – should look like. This resulted in fear among the Allies that the Soviets would try to spread communism and launch an attack on Western Europe.
Leaders of five countries -- Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, France and the UK met in Washington D.C., with the US to sign the North Atlantic Treaty. They basically pledged to protect each other if attacked and treat an attack against any member as an attack against all of them. Gradually, more countries joined this North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including newly formed nations from the breakup of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Today, NATO is an alliance of 29 member nations.
The Importance Of NATO
Every NATO member country is responsible for supporting the organization's operation, by providing monetary support, equipment like fighter jets and ships, and troops.
In 2014, the member countries agreed to spend 2% of their country's economy on NATO. So far, five countries have met this target including the U.S which pays 22% of NATO's operational costs, with others are working towards the target of 2024.
According to Ivo Daalder, former U.S ambassador to NATO, while the U.S might be paying more, the costs would be even higher if the U.S leaves NATO. Europe is the largest trading and military partner for the U.S. The U.S also plays a key role in maintaining world security. Leaving NATO would create an unstable situation in Europe, particularly with Russia and Vladimir Putin interfering in the politics of the region.
Also, European countries pay the cost of hosting U.S military bases within their borders, and the U.S would need to spend billions of dollars to build new facilities and bases in the region.
Last month, the U.S ambassador to Estonia - John Melville Jr. resigned over President Trump's misrepresentation and attacks on NATO. The U.S needs NATO as much as NATO needs the U.S to maintain global security.
Sources: NATO, VOAnews, NYTimes, BBC, Guardian, CNN