By James Middlebrook

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a political and military alliance between 29 nations from North America to Europe. The core mission of NATO is to position ourselves together against any possible attackers. Perhaps the key clause of the partnership is the principle of collective defense defined in Article 5. Collective defense means an attack on one ally is an attack on all allies. To this day, the United States is the only country that has exercised Article 5, which we did after the attacks on September 11, 2001.

In 2014 at the Wales Summit, member nations agreed to contribute 2% of their gross domestic product toward the NATO defense budget. But by the end of 2018, 21 of 29 member nations won’t live up to this promise. If they did, it would add an additional $119 billion to the defense of our allies. While only a guideline, not binding legislation, contributing the committed revenue to our solidarity and defense ensures that NATO can operate unhindered.

America currently pays for 22% of the NATO operating budget. Previously, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have voiced concern with the unfair share the United States pays toward collective defense. While at the 2018 NATO Summit this week in Brussels, President Trump continues to push NATO allies to meet their financial obligations, if not exceed them. The United States has over $21 trillion dollars of debt—the US can’t continue, or be expected, to foot such a gross overshare of the bill to protect our allies any longer.

The time has come for our allies to live up to their commitments and designate 2% of their GDP to defense spending. Americans will not turn our backs on our allies, as they have not turned their backs on us, but NATO is a partnership not a patronage. NATO has endured for over 69 years and its continued operation is essential for maintaining world peace. As a step in the right direction, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has indicated that NATO Allies will increase their defense spending by 2024. Our leaders are right to ask our partners to contribute more financially to our collective defenses because America’s, and its allies’, security matters.