President Trump sends warning letter to Belgium

In the build-up to the NATO summit, U.S. president Donald Trump sent Belgium a letter to remind us about promises made in connection with military spending. PM Charles Michel is not impressed. 

Belgium is hosting a NATO summit on 11 and 12 July in Brussels. In the run-up to the summit, Trump is increasing the pressure, arguing Belgium should spend more on Defence to meet promises made in the past. 

The VRT's Defence specialist Jens Franssen says that "Trump has a point". At the 2014 NATO summit in Wales, Belgium promised not to extend the cuts in military spending. However, NATO figures show that while Belgium spent 5.24 billion on Defence in 2010, this figure had dropped to 4.45 billion in 2017. In 2015 this was only 4.20 billion.  

Better score for (planned) purchases and missions

While the budget has increased a little bit over the past years, the deep cuts made at an earlier stage under the Michel administration are still being felt. At present, Belgium is spending less than 1 percent of its GDP on the army: only Luxembourg is doing better, NATO says. 

Belgium is doing better where military purchases are concerned. Procedures to renew the fighter jets and armed vehicles are on schedule, helping Belgium to score some good points with NATO as well. The actual missions are also important: Belgium built a nice record for a small country in recent years, helping out with fighter jet missions in Syria and Iraq, and deploying troops in Mali, among other engagements.   

This is not unusual on the eve of a NATO summit

Premier Charles Michel says he does not agree with Trump's criticism. He points out that "a letter like this is not unusual on the eve of a NATO summit". Michel underlines that Belgium has several big purchases coming up. Moreover, Belgium was not the only one being targeted: the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Italy also received a letter from America. In other words, Michel is not impressed.  Defence Minister Steven Vandeput did not wish to react on the issue.