As NATO marked its 75th anniversary last week, the idea that it is free-riding on the United States remains a live issue.

While former U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized America’s transatlantic allies for spending too little on defense, it is worth remembering that presidents going back to Dwight Eisenhower (including John Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Barack Obama) also pressured the Europeans to share more of the burden.

In the 1960s, after President Lyndon Johnson’s secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, suggested that the U.S. might reduce its troop levels in Europe if the Germans did not step up, the two countries entered an “offset agreement” whereby Germany would compensate the U.S. by purchasing the latter's goods.