Europe′s NATO members failing to meet spending targets | News | DW | 15.03.2018
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Europe's NATO members failing to meet spending targets

NATO members have increased defense spending in general, but European countries are having difficulties meeting a target of 2 percent of GDP demanded by US President Donald Trump. Germany is a long way off.

Only three NATO members from the EU are meeting defense spending goals, the military alliance said in its annual report on Thursday.

Only Estonia, Greece and the United Kingdom met the 2 percent of GDP defense spending goal agreed in 2014. NATO members have until 2024 to reach the target.

But there were words of encouragement from NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who noted that "in 2017, European allies and Canada increased defense spending by almost 5 percent."

The United States remained the largest defense spender in the alliance, comprising two-thirds of the alliance's overall expenditure. Washington last year spent 3.6 percent of GDP on defense.

Despite the current disparity, NATO expects four more countries to meet the target this year: Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Latvia.

Read more: How does Germany contribute to NATO?

Trump and 2 percent 

US President Donald Trump has lashed out at NATO allies over their failure to meet their commitments.

Read more: Germany 'not fair' on defense spending, says Donald Trump

He has particularly pointed to Germany, which spent 1.24 percent of GDP on defense in 2017, up from 1.2 percent the previous year. In real terms, Germany increased defense spending by 6 percent to 40.5 billion ($50 billion), up 2.8 billion from 2016.

Stoltenberg said that Germany has stepped up contributions to NATO, for example in its mission in Afghanistan and forward deployed force in Lithuania to counter Russia. 

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has already pledged Berlin will spend more on defense.

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The problem for Germany and other states is that while they have increased spending, the percentage change is minor due to simultaneous economic growth. This means that in order to meet NATO goals, members must significantly increase expenditures for defense.

In addition, 23 EU nations in 2017 committed to a joint defense cooperation, focusing on coordination and investments, that could pave the way towards a European defense union.

cw/rt (AFP, dpa)

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