A lot of people thought this would never happen …
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that non-U.S. member nations are projected to spend around $12 billion more on defense this year, signaling that member states are taking heed of President Donald Trump’s demand that they pay their fair share.
The projected 4.3 percent spending increase among America’s allies in Europe and Canada is the largest single-year growth since more than a decade of cuts ended in 2014.
“We have really shifted gears. The (spending) trend is up and we intend to keep it up,” Stoltenburg said Wednesday.
Pressure by then-President Barack Obama in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula began the upward spending trend among America’s allies in Canada and Europe.
NATO leaders in 2014 pledged to increase the annual defense spending in all member nations to 2 percent of their GDP by 2024. Spending among non-U.S. member nations grew 1.8 percent in 2015, followed by 3.3 percent growth in 2016.
But Trump kicked things into overdrive when he labeled NATO obsolete on the campaign trail. He suggested at one point the U.S. wouldn’t come to the aid of a NATO member nation if they hadn’t met their spending obligations.
Since assuming office, Trump has softened his tone a bit on NATO. While he no longer believes the defense alliance is obsolete, he has continued to berate member nations for not paying their fair share.
“Member nations are still not paying what they should be paying,” Trump told the leaders of 27 member nations at a May summit in Brussels. “This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States.”
The projected 4.3 percent spending increase in 2017 among non-U.S. member nations can be attributed in part to Trump’s focus on defense spending, according to Stoltenberg.
“I welcome the strong focus of President Trump on defense spending and burden sharing, because it is important that we deliver,” the NATO chief said Wednesday. “European allies should invest more in defense not only to please the United States, but they should invest more in defense because it is in their own interests.”
Stoltenburg said the increased focus on defense spending by Europe and Canada was NATO’s way of proving their worth to the U.S.
“For me, America First is not America alone,” Stoltenberg told reporters.
“No other great power has that. China, Russia do not have anything like the U.S. has in NATO — 28 allies that stand together with the United States, which provide support,” he added.
While 2017’s projected defense spending increases are a positive sign, there’s still a long way to go until all NATO members meet their defense spending obligations.
Only 5 of the 29 NATO members met their target in 2016 — the U.S., Greece, Britain, Poland and Estonia.
Romania is expected to join that group in 2017, followed by Latvia and Lithuania in 2018, according to Stoltenberg.
But progress is being made across the board. Twenty-five of the 29 NATO member nations will increase their 2017 defense spending, Stoltenburg said, adding that each nation will produce a plan this year to show how they will meet their spending obligations by 2024.
What do you think? Scroll down to comment below.
Source: Western Journalism