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Ten NATO members now meet 2% defense spending benchmark, but not Germany

Military spending among the U.S.'s allies in Europe and Canada increased for the sixth consecutive year, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday.

NATO

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 21, 2020

STUTTGART, Germany — Military spending among the U.S.’s allies in Europe and Canada increased for the sixth consecutive year in 2020 as one-third of member states reached a key alliance benchmark, a NATO report released Wednesday said.

But Germany, which has been accused by President Donald Trump of not spending enough on defense, spent only 1.57% of gross domestic product on its military, the report said.

Germany’s defense spending was cited by Trump as a reason for issuing a directive to pull nearly 12,000 U.S. troops out of the country, although a plan to do so is still being developed by the Pentagon and it is unclear when a withdrawal would happen.

Ten of NATO’s 30 members were estimated to be spending at least 2% of their GDP on their militaries, up from only three in 2014, the report said.

“We expect this trend to continue,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters.

NATO members have been under intense pressure to ramp up defense spending by the Trump administration. It increased by 4.3% among European allies and Canada for the year, Stoltenberg said.

Collectively, NATO members including the U.S. spent roughly $1.03 trillion on defense for 2020, said the report, which was released a day ahead of a meeting of NATO defense ministers, including U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, where spending will be on the agenda, Stoltenberg said.

In 2014, when allies agreed that all members should meet NATO’s 2% spending level by 2024, only the U.S., Greece and the United Kingdom were in compliance. Now, NATO data shows Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, France and Norway meeting the target.

Trump has taken credit for an overall boost in allied defense spending in recent years, and Stoltenberg has praised the U.S. president for making it a priority. But the increases date back to 2014 when Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine led allies to reverse a downward trend in spending that began when the Cold War ended.

For many allies, especially those along NATO’s eastern flank, Moscow’s aggressive moves were a motivating factor in boosting expenditures.

vandiver.john@stripes.com
Twitter: @john_vandiver