UPDATED: The White House has informed us that The Guardian’s reporting of the number of people accompanying Obama in Europe is inaccurate, but refused to provide a correct figure, citing security reasons.
An earlier version of this story failed to clarify that the estimated 900-person entourage with Obama also came from reporting by The Guardian. This updated post now reflects that more clearly.
As President Obama and his entourage, which The Guardian estimated at 900 people, arrived in Brussels for the E.U. summit Tuesday, the Belgian capital braced for the significant expense of hosting him.
Brussels mayor Yvan Mayeur told The Guardian his city will spend $10.4 million to ensure Obama’s security during the president’s 24-hour visit. Hosting an E.U. summit typically costs the city about €500,000 ($690,000), the newspaper reports. “But this time round, you can multiply that figure by 20,” Mayeur said.
Belgium is providing an additional 350 security personnel to protect Obama as he travels between sites. Nine U.S. helicopters and 30 armored cars will be used for an Obama visit to a World War I cemetery.
Obama’s security needs are not unique. When his predecessor, President George W. Bush, traveled abroad, he didn’t pack light. In November 2003, just months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Bush brought 700 people with him on a visit to London, which The Guardian at the time described as “worthy of a travelling medieval monarch.” The British government expected to spend around £5 million to protect Bush over his four-day London stay.
Not only do these trips require host cities to shell out considerable capital, they also come at a hefty price to American taxpayers. The Washington Post reported in June 2013 that the Obama family trip to sub-Saharan Africa was projected to cost the U.S. government anywhere from $60 million to $100 million.