In his State of Union 2019 speech, US President Donald Trump has announced plans to enhance the US Armed Forces by increasing the Pentagon’s defence budget and re-examining its relationship with foreign nations.

So far, the Trump administration has approved two defence budget increases, initially to $700bn last year, and to $717bn this year.

Trump reiterated in his address that non-US members of NATO were raising their defence budget to take some financial pressure off the US.

Trump said in his State of Union 2019 speech: “We are also getting other nations to pay their fair share. For years, the United States was being treated very unfairly by NATO, but now we have secured a $100bn increase in defence spending from NATO allies.”

In January 2019, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg announced that non-US members will increase their defence spending by $100bn.

US spending as a proportion of NATO’s overall spending has fallen in recent years, despite the US pouring more dollars into the organisation since 2014. The US’s defence budget fell from 4.78% of its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011 to 3.5% in 2019.

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Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said: “In his State of Union address tonight, President Trump reaffirmed his unwavering commitment to support our troops and to protect American national security interests at home and abroad. Under President Trump’s leadership, we are focused on the full implementation of the National Defense Strategy: increasing lethality, strengthening alliances and partnerships, and reforming the way we do business.”

INF treaty withdrawal

Another theme in Trump’s State of Union 2019 was the president’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), citing Russian violations as the reason for the US pulling out of the treaty.

Trump said: “Decades ago the US entered into a treaty with Russia in which we agreed to limit and reduce our missile capabilities. While we followed the agreement to the letter, Russia repeatedly violated its terms. That is why I announced that the US is officially withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces [INF] Treaty.

“As part of our military build-up, the US is developing a state-of-the-art missile defence system. Under my administration, we will never apologise for advancing America’s interests.”

NATO responded to the US’s withdrawal by urging Russia to uphold the INF Treaty.

In a joint statement released on 4 December 2018, NATO said: “Russia’s violation of the INF Treaty erodes the foundations of effective arms control and undermines Allied security. This is part of Russia’s broader pattern of behaviour that is intended to weaken the overall Euro-Atlantic security architecture.

“We call on Russia to return urgently to full and verifiable compliance. It is now up to Russia to preserve the INF Treaty.”

In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia had not violated the treaty, but it will begin developing new missiles while the INF Treaty is suspended.