Trump was right: U.S. subsidizes NATO by hundreds of billions

In an interview with The Washington Post editorial board, Donald Trump made an accurate statement about the U.S. subsidization of fellow NATO members:

TRUMP: Look, I see NATO as a good thing to have -- I look at the Ukraine situation and I say, so Ukraine is a country that affects us far less than it affects other countries in NATO, and yet we are doing all of the lifting, they're not doing anything. And I say, why is it that Germany is not dealing with NATO on Ukraine? Why is it that other countries that are in the vicinity of the Ukraine not dealing with -- why are we always the one that's leading, potentially the third world war, okay, with Russia? Why are we always the ones that are doing it? And I think the concept of NATO is good, but I do think the United States has to have some help. We are not helped. I’ll give you a better example than that. I mean, we pay billions -- hundreds of billions of dollars to supporting other countries that are in theory wealthier than we are.

DIEHL: Hundreds of billions?

TRUMP: Billions.

Trump's GOP opponents jumped on his comments and accused him of suggesting that the U.S. should leave NATO, or at least cut back its support of the alliance.

In fact, Trump was correct that the U.S. is paying "hundreds of billions of dollars to supporting other countries" via NATO each year, never mind additional military subsidies to non-NATO allies.

In 2014, the collective GDP of all NATO members was US$37.5 trillion.  During the same year, the alliance spent a total of US$924 billion on military expenditures, of which the U.S. spent the majority ($610 billion), according to the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database.

Consequently, the alliance collectively spent 2.47% of GDP on defense.  The U.S. was the only member above this value, coming in at 3.5% of GDP.  In other words, the U.S. subsidizes each and every other member of NATO.

This leads us to the following chart, showing the individual defense spending deficits toward the common defense in 2014 for each NATO member – note that the U.S. has a "surplus" of US$180 billion that equals the sum of all other member deficits.

Unsurprisingly, Germany (US$47 billion per year) and Canada (US$26 billion per year) are the biggest NATO laggards, followed closely by Spain and Italy at $US21 billion per year each.  These four countries constitute almost two thirds of the total NATO deficit that has to be covered by the United States.

Trump had good instincts on this.

One key question on the defense file remains for Trump based on his interview with the Post.  When asked, "Is there a secretary of state and a secretary of defense in the modern era who you think have done a good job?  Who do you think were the best?," Trump replied, "I think George Shultz was very good.  I thought he was excellent."

And yet George Shultz is now a key supporter of the Global Zero movement to eliminate nuclear weapons – including and especially the American nuclear deterrent.  Does that mean Trump supports Shultz's current misguided stance in favor of eliminating nuclear weapons?

As well, Trump has come out categorically as a non-believer of anthropogenic climate change, saying, "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."  On the other side, Shultz has recently been a vocal advocate in calling for carbon taxation and a shift to green energy because of anthropogenic global warming.  Does this mean Trump is now a supporter of Schultz's views on climate change?