US will lay down marker at NATO summit regarding target for defense spending, envoy says
Stars and Stripes June 8, 2023
Fellow NATO members will feel the peer pressure applied by the U.S. to make good on greater defense spending when they convene next month in Vilnius, Lithuania, the American envoy to the alliance said at a conference this week.
NATO funding will be a major topic at the summit July 11-12, Ambassador Julianne Smith and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday.
The 31 countries in the alliance will be on notice about dedicating 2% of gross domestic product to defense, a commitment known as the Defense Investment Pledge, or DIP.
The pledge “is a floor, not a ceiling, and there will be language on this,” Smith said, adding that the U.S. is planning to introduce what she called “DIP 2.0” at the Lithuania gathering.
Stoltenberg and Smith participated virtually in a conference sponsored by the Center for New American Security.
The 2% threshold was set at a summit in Wales in 2014, following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, with a target for doing so by 2024.
But Smith said only about seven or eight allies have reached that goal so far, although that number is expected to grow in the next three years.
“We’re going to increase the level of readiness, we’re going to have a bigger pool of forces from which to draw, but you’re absolutely right, it will require countries to deliver on the 2%,” Smith said.
The bloc is committed not only to ensuring that Ukraine is victorious but also that it is equipped to prevent future attacks from Russia, they said.
Stoltenberg’s annual report for 2022 showed that the U.S., Greece, Lithuania, Britain, Poland, Estonia and Latvia met that target. NATO allies overall increased defense spending by 2.2% from the previous year, according to the report.
During the Cold War, the average in Europe was about 3% of GDP for defense, Stoltenberg said Wednesday, warning that Russia should not be underestimated.
The Russians have seen “big losses for land forces, but they have air and naval forces which have hardly suffered any losses,” not to mention cyber and nuclear capabilities.
When the current war ends, the alliance needs to have a “framework” in place to ensure that Ukraine is not attacked again, Stoltenberg added.
That framework likely will include Ukraine as a future NATO member, given that at the Madrid summit in June 2022, “all allies agreed” on eventual membership for Kyiv, Stoltenberg said.
Stoltenberg said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy plans to attend the July summit in person, but he could not say whether a decision on Ukraine’s membership will come as soon as next month.
Zelenskyy has stepped up demands for the alliance to fast-track Ukraine’s bid for membership.
“All allies agree that NATO’s door is open,” Stoltenberg said, adding that “it is for Ukraine and for the allies to decide when the time is right.”
Russian President Vladmir Putin “doesn’t have a veto over NATO enlargement,” he said.