Published: Wed, June 28, 2017
Hi-Tech | By Grace Becker

NATO chief: US allies to spend $12 billion more this year

NATO chief: US allies to spend $12 billion more this year

"In 2017 we foresee an even greater annual real increase of 4.3 percent", NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday, adding that the increase is the third consecutive one since 2014.

Defence ministers were set to discuss programs to boost military spending and examine NATO missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo, as well as the operation against the Islamic State terror organisation.

"We have really shifted gears. The (spending) trend is up and we intend to keep it up". Of NATO's 29 members, only the U.S., Britain, Poland, Greece and Estonia now meet or exceed the target.

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"The U.S. commitment to our NATO Article Five security guarantee is ironclad, as demonstrated over decades of our steadfastness and given voice more recently by President Trump before the American people", Mattis said.

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The spending increase announced Wednesday is $12 billion more than 2016 levels, and the increases are also growing bigger - 2016 spending was 3.3 percent higher than 2015 levels. New U.S. President Donald Trump dismissed the alliance as obsolete during his campaign, before concluding earlier this year that it was "no longer obsolete" despite no major changes of focus.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on Wednesday repeated the USA commitment, speaking alongside his German counterpart, Defense Minister Ursula Von der Leyen. "... This means, over the last three years, European allies and Canada spent nearly 46 billion US dollars more on defense".

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.

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 423-4 for a resolution "solemnly reaffirming" the U.S. commitment to Article 5 and calling on North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies to meet the 2024 deadline to boost spending to two percent of GDP.

The NATO chief said five allied nations had met their defence spending targets the previous year - now 2 per cent of gross domestic product - and expected Romania, Latvia and Lithuania to achieve the same by 2018. "This means, over the last three years, European Allies and Canada spent nearly 46 billion USA dollars more on defence", he said.

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