In 2023, Poland's defense spending as a share of gross domestic product was 3.9 percent, the highest of all NATO member states, followed by the United States at 3.49 percent. It is a target of NATO that every member country should spend at least two percent of their GDP on defense. As of this year, it is estimated that eleven of the alliance's 31 member states were meeting this target. The average expenditure on defense expenditure across all NATO member states was 2.64 percent in 2023, compared with 2.57 percent in the previous year.
Article 5 triggered in the aftermath of 9/11
While NATO was founded with the aim of deterring the Soviet Union in the Cold War, its central defense clause "Article 5" whereby an attack on one member is considered an attack on all, has only been triggered once; after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. NATO's involvement in the subsequent War in Afghanistan was a direct result of this, with troops supporting the operation from across the alliance. Although NATO's focus drifted towards counter-insurgency, and the threat from terrorism in this period, its original purpose has become far more important recently.
NATO, America, and the War in Ukraine
Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 shook many European powers out of a creeping complacency that had set in since the end of the Cold War. It led directly to the applications of Sweden and Finland to the alliance in 2022, with the latter joining later that year. The conflict has however also underlined how Europe's security is still underpinned by American military power, with the United States by far the main contributor of military aid to Ukraine. Furthermore, in overall defense spending,the U.S. spends more than the rest of NATO combined. Threats from former U.S. President, and likely 2024 presidential candidate Donald Trump to withdraw from the alliance, therefore put NATO's ability to provide European security at risk in the future.