NATO Says Non-US 2017 Defense Spending to Rise 4.3 Percent
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - European NATO allies and Canada will increase defense spending this year by 4.3 percent, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday, amid pressure from President Donald Trump to spend more.
"In 2017 we foresee an even greater annual real increase of 4.3 percent. That is three consecutive years of accelerating defense spending," Stoltenberg told reporters on the eve of a defense ministers' meeting in Brussels.
"So we are really shifting gears, the trend is up and we intend to keep it up," he added.
Trump has repeatedly berated the allies for not doing more to share the defense burden and bluntly told them again at a leaders' summit in Brussels last month that they could not count on Washington coming to their defense if they did not do their bit, AFP reported.
Trump's comments caused consternation among many, notably Germany, but Stoltenberg said the president's demands were understandable given the challenges the US-led alliance now faces.
"I welcome the strong focus of Trump on spending and defense burden sharing," he said.
"At the same time, I also underline that allies should invest more in defense not to please the United States but because it is in their own interest and they have made the commitment."
Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, recalled that the 28 allies had pledged at a 2014 summit in Wales to increase defense spending to the equivalent of two percent of annual economic output within a decade.
That move, pushed by then president Barack Obama in response to the Ukraine crisis and a more aggressive Russia, had halted and reversed years of defense cuts, Stoltenberg said.
So far only five allies have met that benchmark -- the US, Greece, Britain, Estonia and Poland. But Stoltenberg said Romania was set to join them this year, and Latvia and Lithuania in 2018.
In 2015, the allies turned the corner with an increase of 1.8 percent overall, pushed that to 3.3 percent in 2016 and now looked to go further again this year, he said.
In all, the three years represented an overall increase of $46 billion dollars, boosting NATO's ability to face the Russian challenge in Europe and new threats such as Daesh (also known as ISIL or ISIS)-inspired terrorism across the Middle East and North Africa.
The United States accounts for about 70 percent of combined NATO defense spending and Washington has pushed the allies for years to do more to ease the burden.
Trump, however, has pressed hardest of all, putting the allies on the back foot by dubbing NATO "obsolete" and questioning the wisdom of the US security commitment if they failed to live up to their side of the bargain.