NATO’s top civilian leader thanked President Donald Trump on Tuesday for pushing alliance members to boost their own defense spending, saying his blunt criticism is part of the reason why more allies are expected to hit spending targets this year.
“I would like to thank President Trump for his leadership on defense spending,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels, according to CNN. “It is clearly having an impact. Last year on the president’s initiative we agreed to develop national plans to raise defense spending.”
Stoltenberg offered his thanks as NATO released its 2018 defense spending estimates, a projection of how much each member nation plans to spend on their military budgets for the year. The latest NATO forecast predicts a fourth straight year of increased defense expenditures across the entire alliance, with Canada and European members making up a greater share of overall spending.
NATO members agreed in 2006 to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense, but the target was largely ignored in following years, especially as governments cut military budgets during the global financial crisis. In 2014, members once again pledged to hit the 2 percent target “within a decade,” and total defense spending across the alliance began to rise the next year.
Still, just four NATO countries — the U.S., Greece, Britain and Estonia — manged to meet the 2 percent guideline in 2017. Trump has criticized the under-funding as evidence that many allies are content to shirk responsibility for their own defense while under the U.S. security umbrella. (RELATED: Europeans Like The Idea Of America Defending NATO Allies, But Not So Much The Other Way Around)
Some foreign policy experts have worried that Trump’s rhetorical attacks on NATO members over spending will weaken the 69-year-old alliance. But financially, at least, member nations appear to be strengthening their commitment to the alliance, according to the NATO spending estimates.
At least eight allies — the U.S., Greece, Estonia, Britain, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania and Romania — are expected to reach the 2 percent goal in 2018. Looking further ahead, European members and Canada plan to add an extra $266 billion between now and 2024, NATO spokesman Dylan White said Tuesday.
The 2018 NATO summit begins Wednesday in Brussels.
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