A Fully Funded NATO Would Terrify Russia & Discourage Its Adventurism. But 20 European Nations ‘Must Pay’

OPED By: Dr. Warren K. Christolon


The dream of peace and security for all of Europe is within reach by correcting an ongoing and prevailing European NATO malady.

While NATO was originally based on a model of shared responsibility, it has inappropriately morphed into 21 out of 32 member countries, with exceptions of non-2 % GDP contributing allies. With a Ukrainian-Russian war ongoing, this is detrimental to the NATO alliance and the rest of non-NATO Europe, particularly Ukraine.

While NATO countries ought to have fulfilled their 2% GDP defense obligation, this was woefully never done.

The vast majority of NATO countries maneuvered not to fulfill this obligation. European countries comprise 30 of the 32 NATO members, together with the US and Canada. Of the 30 European members, only 10 (33%) fulfilled their 2023 2% GDP goal.

This leaves a sobering 20 European NATO countries (67%) that do not fulfill their minimum. The “Honorable 10 European NATO Countries” that do pay their dues are: Poland (3.9%), Greece 3.01%, Estonia 2.73%, Lithuania 2.54%, Finland 2.45%, Romania 2.44%, Hungary 2.43%, Latvia (2.27%), UK (2.07%), and Slovak Republic (2.03%). Outside of Europe, the US paid 3.49% of GDP and Canada 1.38%. Overall, it is the 10 Honorable European countries and the US that carry Europe’s defense burden.

A decade ago, the Obama Administration made it clear that NATO countries were not meeting their funding obligations: “Everyone has to step up.” The subsequent Trump Administration called for “burden sharing.” Yet no improvement has been made.

Europe’s welfare state, by the way, has grown exponentially as its defense spending has fallen.

The non-fulfilling NATO countries failed to grasp that today’s global security threat is not just limited to Europe. Their assumption that the US would always be available in an emergency to protect them is no longer viable.

Saab Gripen NATO Sweden
Image for Representation

The US is overextended militarily and economically beyond Europe due to its worldwide security obligations. By necessity, America’s security focus has shifted away from Europe to two other strategic regions: The Indo-Pacific and the Middle East. These increased global threats have necessarily drawn down US defense resources away from Europe. This should have been recognized by the non-contributing European countries long ago, but it hasn’t. It is now time for Europe to have a reality check and to initiate new corrective actions to remedy the ongoing malaise. The sooner, the better.

The non-compliant NATO countries justifiably deserve to be nudged out of their self-imposed “NATO Welfare Cocoon.”

Everything is to be gained by it. While Russia is rated as the world’s third or fourth military power, it would pale in comparison to an honestly and fully funded European NATO superpower.

Economically, it would become a European Titan v. a Russian Pauper. Demographically, it is NATO Europe’s billion inhabitants v. Russia’s 144 million inhabitants. The European component of NATO alone would then have an undeniable deterrence supremacy that would cast a protective veil over all of the like-minded European countries.  As such, Russia would cease to be a bona fide threat to Europe.

The most prominent measure to correct the present European security deficiency is to end the manipulation by the majority of non-paying NATO countries at the expense of the ten fully contributing European member countries.

As currently maneuvered by the majority of member countries, the position of NATO Secretary General is locked into one of their own. As such, it is important that a new Secretary General be appointed from one of the ten honorable contributing countries. This would reshape the leadership of NATO Headquarters into one that would effectively move to have all members contribute a minimum of 2% of GDP to defense.

Within NATO’s 2% GDP-paying countries, there are well-qualified senior European leaders ready to lead NATO Headquarters. Such new leadership will be more capable of nudging its allies to pay up. It will result in a fully funded NATO with a viable and credible deterrence power within Europe.

A new-era Secretary General leadership to also reshape NATO and redirect it toward Europe’s real-world milieu with redefined core principles. These principles may well include: (1) Europe itself is now Europe’s strategic responsibility, as allied with the US and Canada; (2) Realizing America’s staggering global defense commitments extend beyond Europe; (3) America’s army can no longer to be deemed as Europe’s defensive army. (4) All European members are to contribute their minimum 2% of GDP; (5) Europe is no longer to be afraid of Russia, Russia is to be deterred by a powerful NATO Europe.

The underlying principle addressed here is that a fully funded NATO would become the dominant defensive power in Europe. The resulting nexus of such NATO supremacy interconnected with the remainder of Europe’s non-NATO countries is undeniable.

In terms of Russia’s own blustering terminology of “Russia’s Near Abroad”, a new reformed and fully funded “European Centric NATO Superpower” may tangibly view Europe’s non-NATO countries as “NATO’s Near Abroad”.

Europe has a responsibility to protect its people. This new strategic option is best suited to fulfill this responsibility and, at the same time, preclude Russia from labeling a preexisting NATO funding policy as a triggering “escalation.”

The resulting nexus of a new NATO superpower, together with its shared interests with its neighboring European countries, will strongly influence peace and security throughout Europe.

  • Dr. Warren K. Christolon is an international contributor of commentary and analysis in the areas of Geo-Economics, Security Policy, Defense, Military Technology, and International Affairs. Publications in professional journals, prominent magazines, major domestic & foreign newspapers, and online publications. Member of President-Elect Ronald Reagan’s Transition Team: Foreign Affairs Council. Guest Lecturer with the U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Institute; Previous service as U.S. Military Attaché: U.S. Embassies in Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.