NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Unequal Sharing Of Defense Burden

December 21, 1999

The U.S. spends considerably more of its national wealth on peacekeeping and defense activities than its European allies. That reality has kicked off debate as to just how much leadership responsibility European countries should assume vis-a-vis the Americans in future conflicts.

In fact, just this month the European Union proposed a plan to create a separate, non-NATO, 60,000 man quick-reaction force devoted to peacekeeping and crisis intervention. Some analysts see such a development as an attempt to move out from under the U.S. shadow.

  • The U.S. spent $267.2 billion on defense -- or 3.4 percent of its gross domestic product in 1997.
  • EU nations spent $166.7 billion for defense -- or an average of 1.8 percent of GDP.
  • No European nation spends so great a proportion of its GDP on defense as does the U.S.
  • France commits 2.5 percent; Germany, 1.5 percent; Italy, 1.9 percent; and the United Kingdom, 2.6 percent.

The U.S. has always wanted European countries to shoulder a greater burden of their own defense. But military budgets throughout the continent are now being cut, even though these countries were reportedly embarrassed by the size of American commitments during recent operations compared to their own.

Source: Brian Mitchell, "Are U.S. and Europe Divorcing?" Investor's Business Daily, December 21, 1999.

 

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