If 2% have become the gold standard of defence spending in the debate on the future of NATO, how realistic is it that the target will never be achieved? Pessimism reigns over this issue. “The directive . . . . If taken literally, it would create an impossible situation for some allies,” writes Ian Anthony of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. A country like Germany would have to find 74 billion euros ($82 billion) in defence spending instead of its current 37 billion euros ($41 billion), which it does not (and would not be willing), which in turn would lead to “inefficiency and waste, not increased useful skills”. 20 However, the political relevance of 2% is not only a practical convenience. Over the past decade, 2% of the United States has gained strength as a metric that matters in terms of measuring Europe`s commitment to joint security and defence efforts within NATO. Since the Europeans are not ready and unable to significantly increase their contribution to defence, the 2% issue is mainly about the future of the US presence in Europe. “It is not up to me, as NATO Secretary General, to take a position on tariffs and trade issues,” he said when asked whether this was a good use of NATO`s spending targets. “What I can say is that throughout NATO`s history we have seen differences between NATO allies on various issues, including trade issues; but we have always been able to avoid those disputes that undermine the unity of the Alliance, when it comes to NATO`s core mission, to protect ourselves and defend each other. The United States has tried desperately to push its European allies to bear more of the defence burden.
Decisions of the Wales Summit must be taken in this context. Whereas for Europeans, the “Ready” action plan is primarily aimed at providing military security to NATO members in the East, and the 2% target is the financial instrument to make this possible, for the Americans it works – perhaps even in the first place – in the other direction. For Washington, the preparedness action plan is a way to mobilise Europeans up to 2%.30 10 “Juncker: NATO is not enough, the EU needs an army,” eurActiv www.euractiv.com/sections/global-europe/juncker-nato-not-enough-eu-needs-army-312724, 9 March 2015. To criticise Juncker`s proposal, see Jan Techau, “The Illusion of an Independent European Army,” Judy Dempseys Strategic Europe (Blog), Carnegie Europe, 10 March 2015, carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/?fa=59296. Sign up directly in your inbox for the letter Early Bird, the most comprehensive information and information from the defense industry. The discussion of the 2% spending target within NATO is just one of the many symptoms of the struggle to control this issue.