NATO Says More Members Plan to Reach Spending Goal by 2024
(Source: Radio Free Europe; issued Feb 14, 2018)
Fifteen of NATO's 29 members have laid out plans to meet the alliance's defense spending goal by 2024, overall increasing spending by $46 billion, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

"This is substantial progress, and a good start," he said on February 13 ahead of a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels this week. "After years of decline, since 2014 we have seen three years of increasing defense spending across European allies and Canada."

Stoltenberg's comments come as U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to pressure U.S. allies in Europe to increase military spending to levels targeted by NATO, fulfilling a key commitment sought by U.S. President Donald Trump.

NATO has set a goal of each member spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense, but until recently only a few of NATO's 29 members met that target.

Stoltenberg said that in 2014, only three allies met the goal, but the number has increased to eight this year. The increase in the last four years has added $19 billion to spending on weapons and equipment for the alliance, he said.

An additional seven NATO members have laid out plans to meet the goal by 2024, he said.

"This should lead to significant improvements in our forces and their readiness," he said, "but we still have a long way to go."

According to NATO, Britain, Greece, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have met the 2 percent goal, while France and Turkey are among the countries set to reach it soon.

France is envisioning a dramatic increase in spending of more than one-third by 2025. But important NATO members remain far short of the goal.

A large projected increase in military spending by Germany will not be enough to take Berlin up to 2 percent by 2024. Spain, Belgium, and Italy also have said they will not meet the target by 2024.

Trump has since taking office last year pushed hard for greater burden-sharing by Europe and Canada. The United States for decades has borne the biggest defense budgets and accounted for the lion's share of NATO spending.

U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison said on February 13 that Washington will continue to push for higher spending by NATO partners.

"We talk 2 percent, but that's because in the overall, that is what we need to have the capabilities and the ability to withstand any kind of threat," Hutchinson said.

Mattis is also expected to take a tough stance at the NATO gathering, said Katie Wheelbarger, principal U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.

"He will address those who don't have national plans to meet 2 percent and suggest they really need to develop those plans," she told reporters on February 13.

U.S. officials say Trump set an example this week by proposing a $1.7 billion increase in U.S. military spending in Europe in his 2019 budget.


Secretary General: More Countries on Track to Meet NATO Spending Goals
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued Feb. 13, 2018)
WASHINGTON --- NATO officials expect the majority of members to reach the goal of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense by 2024, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels today.

Figures project that 15 of the 29 NATO members will reach the goal, with all members already increasing defense spending in response to challenges in Europe and elsewhere.

Stoltenberg spoke in advance of the NATO defense ministers conference that will start at alliance's headquarters tomorrow. Defense Secretary James N. Mattis has said he will discuss fair burden-sharing at the meeting.

The ministers are preparing for the NATO summit scheduled July in NATO's new headquarters.

"Fair burden-sharing is also crucial for our shared security," Stoltenberg said. At NATO's 2014 summit in Wales, the leaders agreed to invest 2 percent of GDP in defense programs.

"After years of decline, since 2014 we have seen three years of increasing defense spending across European allies and Canada," the secretary general said.

'This is Substantial Progress'

In 2014, the United States was one of only three allies spending 2 percent or more on defense. "This year, we expect eight allies to meet the target," Stoltenberg said. "And by 2024, we expect at least 15 allies will spend 2 percent of GDP or more on defense. This is substantial progress, and a good start."

The allies also promised to invest more in major capabilities. "The European allies and Canada invested $19 billion more on major equipment over the last three years," the secretary general said. "By 2024, 22 allies are expected to invest 20 percent or more of their defense budgets on major capabilities, which is NATO's guideline. This should lead to significant improvements to our forces and their readiness." The allies also are increasing their contributions to operations, missions and activities.

The defense ministers will also hold a meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group and segue into discussions on modernizing NATO's command structure.

New Joint Force Command

Stoltenberg said he expects the ministers to approve a new joint force command for the Atlantic to focus on protecting sea lines of communication between North America and Europe.

"The command would play a crucial role in crisis and conflict," Stoltenberg said. "Eighty percent of [Supreme Allied Commander Europe's] area of responsibility is covered by water. And we need to stay ahead of potential threats both on sea and under it."

The secretary general also said he expects NATO defense leaders to establish a new support command to improve the rapid movement of troops and equipment within Europe.

NATO officials also will meet with Federica Mogherini, the European Union's high representative and vice president, to discuss the European Union's defense plans and NATO-EU cooperation.

Deterrence and Defense Posture

Finally, the ministers will discuss NATO's deterrence and defense posture and the alliance's role in projecting stability and fighting terrorism. NATO is part of the coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, where NATO contributes airborne warning planes and troops to help train Iraqi forces.

"As the coalition shifts focus from combat operations to capacity-building, NATO's training support will become even more important," Stoltenberg said. "Years of experience from Afghanistan have taught us that strengthening local forces is one of our best tools in the fight against terrorism."

Stoltenberg said the number of NATO forces in Afghanistan will grow this year from 13,000 to 16,000 personnel. "This is a clear sign of our continued commitment to Afghanistan's security," he added.


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