One measure cannot trump it all: lessons from NATO’s early burden-sharing debates

Author (Person)
Series Title
Series Details Vol.26, No.4, December 2017, p552-574
Publication Date December 2017
ISSN 0966-2839
Content Type


This paper calls for a qualitative turn in discussing NATO burden-sharing. The paper takes issue with the numerical burden-sharing narrative in NATO and identifies its two main problems. Despite being simple, the 2% defence spending pledge lacks other basic attributes of any contributory system: fairness and effectiveness. Drawing from concepts of distributive justice, the paper analyses NATO’s first burden-sharing debates and demonstrates that due to their qualitatively different capabilities, the allies agreed on an egalitarian ability-to-pay distributive justice. Furthermore, it shows that the allies refrained from implementing fairness in terms of a one-size-fits-all formula, since this simple numerical approach could not produce fair and effective burden-sharing at the same time. Rather, they developed a dynamic framework for optimal sharing. These formative burden-sharing debates provide valuable lessons learned for the current build-up of NATO’s posture: less focused on formal sharing, more concerned with strategic outputs.

Source Link
Subject Categories
Countries / Regions