Europe's NATO members and Canada will jointly raise defense spending by 4.3 percent in 2017, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said yesterday, partly aimed at showing the United States they are committed to shouldering more costs.
"In 2017 we foresee an even greater annual real increase of 4.3 percent. That is three consecutive years of accelerating defense spending," Stoltenberg told reporters on the eve of a defense ministers' meeting in Brussels. "So we are really shifting gears, the trend is up and we intend to keep it up," he added.
U.S. President Donald Trump has made more expenditure his priority for NATO, using his first alliance meeting in May to scold European leaders about spending, which is at historical lows and does not meet NATO's goal of 2 percent of GDP.
This year's increase represents the fastest spending growth since cuts stopped three years ago. Growth was 1.8 pct in 2015 and 3.3 percent last year, but it was unclear how near the new increase takes spending to the alliance's target.
Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, recalled that the 28 allies had pledged at a 2014 summit in Wales to increase defense spending to the equivalent of two percent of annual economic output within a decade. That move, pushed by then president Barack Obama in response to the Ukraine crisis and a more aggressive Russia, had halted and reversed years of defense cuts, Stoltenberg said.
Only four of NATO's 27 European members - Greece, Britain, Poland and Estonia - met the spending target in 2016. Romania will do so this year, followed by Latvia and Lithuania in 2018, Stoltenberg said. Twenty five of NATO's 29 allies plan to lift spending this year, he said, a day before NATO defense ministers meet in Brussels to discuss greater security spending on rising threats including deterring a resurgent Russia, dealing with failed states on its borders and protecting against cyber attacks.
In 2015, the allies turned the corner with an increase of 1.8 percent overall, pushed that to 3.3 percent in 2016 and now looked to go further again this year, he said. In all, the three years represented an overall increase of $46 billion dollars, boosting NATO's ability to face the Russian challenge in Europe and new threats such as Islamic State-inspired jihadi terrorism across the Middle East and North Africa. The United States accounts for about 70 percent of combined NATO defense spending and Washington has pushed the allies for years to do more to ease the burden.
Compiled from wires