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Pay up, NATO head tells Germany

June 29, 2015

As challenges continue to mount, the transatlantic military alliance's secretary-general has asked Germany to spend more on defense. NATO's target is 2 percent of gross domestic product; Germany's barely past half that.

NATO Übung Noble Jump in Zagan Polen
Image: DW/B. Wesel

On Monday, the eve of the 60th anniversary of Germany joining NATO, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg gently reminded Berlin that the suggested minimum defense spending for alliance members is 2 percent of GDP. Germany, at around 1.2 percent, is spending just 60 percent of the recommended quota.

"I'm addressing all members, but as a major economy, Germany falls short more significantly than others," the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" quoted Stoltenberg as saying in an interview published on Monday. "The USA gives 4 percent of GDP for defense. In Europe, we're closer to 1 percent. That is not a fair share."

Stoltenberg's comments appeared ahead of an event Tuesday in Berlin to celebrate 60 years since West Germany, as it was classified at the time during the Cold War, joined the NATO alliance. The ceremonies were moved from May 6, the official anniversary, to avoid competing with the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II across Europe on May 8 and 9.

The comments also follow a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels last week and an earlier announcement that the Cold War alliance would ramp up its defenses in the face of new threats from an old foe.

The Welsh promise

NATO reaffirmed its 2 percent target at its 2014 summit in Wales, with a plan to have all members meeting the mark within a decade's time. Before then, only five NATO members had contributed at least that amount: the United States, the UK, Greece, Poland and Estonia.

Germany has announced a plan to incrementally increase defense spending over the next four years, from just under 33 billion euros currently to just over 35 billion, or from roughly $37 billion to $39 billion. That still falls far short of the stated goal: Germany would need to pay closer to 58 billion euros to meet its obligation.

"Nobody expects that Germany will do it within the year," Stoltenberg told the Süddeutsche. "We expect that Germany will stop the curtailments and gradually increase." He added: "For many years, Germany has profited from security guarantees of collective defense, and now we want to ensure that our eastern members can receive the same benefits."

If Germany intends to continue paying a flat rate and its GDP - up 12.7 percent over the past four years - continues to climb, its shortfall would continue to grow. At this pace, Germany would be over 6 percent further from its proportional obligation by the time the contribution reached 35 billion euros in 2019.

mkg/msh (AFP, dpa)