An official website of the United States government

U.S. Ambassador Barrett’s Op-Ed on NATO spending
June 13, 2022

During my first 100 days as U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg in this small but influential and forward-looking country, I have been extremely impressed. Luxembourg is a country of superlatives: one of the world’s most prosperous nations, one of the world’s most open societies, and one of the world’s safest countries. A global financial center, Luxembourg provides more in its social contract than many others, with outstanding healthcare, education, and free public transportation.  There is much to admire and for the United States to emulate.

For being a country of many firsts, it is surprising to many people that Luxembourg is last in one important area – investing in defense.  At no time in the last 75 years has this issue deserved more attention or more investment, than now. President Putin is waging war against a European country, killing and injuring innocent people, sowing instability, and creating risks far beyond the borders of Ukraine.

The United States and Luxembourg enjoy peace and security because we joined together with our trusted allies to form the greatest defense alliance the world has ever known.  As members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, our countries pledge to come to the collective defense of all alliance members.  To fulfil this somber responsibility, the leaders of NATO, including Luxembourg’s, pledged to spend 2 percent of GDP on national defense by 2024.

I was very pleased to see Luxembourg is increasing its defense spending to reach 0.72% of GDP by 2024, but that remains far from the pledged 2%.  In fact, Luxembourg will be the only member of the Alliance in 2024 that is projected to spend less than 1 percent of its GDP.

Minister Bausch recently paid a visit to the Baltic states, who are all among the NATO members meeting the 2% requirement. Although less wealthy than Luxembourg, these three countries are paying a full two percent of their national wealth on defense.  Only three allies actually spend less in total dollars on defense than Luxembourg -Albania, Montenegro, and North Macedonia.  Yet, all three are still contributing a higher percentage of their GDP.

The Russian invasion of a sovereign Ukraine has rapidly changed the global security situation.  NATO remains our best and greatest protection against further Putin adventurism, but it requires sustained innovation and investment.  All allies must rise to this moment.  We have already seen Germany and Belgium take action.  Each country has announced a leap forward in defense spending to meet the 2% pledge. Germany has committed to spend an additional 100 billion euros on defense. (Luxembourg, in comparison, needs only to spend $1 billion more to meet its pledge).  Romania, already meeting its 2% obligation, is now aiming for 2.5%.

Luxembourg makes many significant contributions to NATO. Hosting the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), playing a crucial part in the NSPA’s cyber range, contributing to the operations of a large U.S. Air Force warehouse, and enhancing NATO’s satellite capabilities, are examples. But shouldn’t one of the most successful countries in the world be aiming higher than 0.72%?

Luxembourg officials have identified a number of constraints to spending more -chief among them is the small size of its army. These constraints are valid, but the rapidly evolving security context compels us to find arguments for doing more, rather than reasons doing so would be difficult.

There are many ways Luxembourg could invest prudently in defense, especially in areas where Luxembourg has ample and world-class expertise— space, cyber, and related research, and development.  There is room to do more, at least 1.28% worth of room.

I have been heartened by the sincere efforts Minister Bausch is making to address this issue.  In his foreword to Luxembourg’s Defense Space Strategy, Minister Bausch says: “It is Luxembourg’s responsibility to meet its obligations as a reliable partner within these international organizations and to bear its burden of responsibility for the efforts inherent in collective and common defense.” I could not agree more. As we approach the June 29 Summit in Madrid and future NATO expansion, NATO allies will be looking to Luxembourg to live up to this commitment.