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|February 21, 2019|
Trump urges NATO members to double military funding target
BRUSSELS--President Donald Trump has urged NATO allies to commit 4% of their annual output (GDP) to military spending, double the current target.
The White House confirmed he had made the remarks during the Western military alliance's summit in Brussels.
The meeting also saw Trump single out Germany for criticism over its defense spending.
NATO'S secretary-general said the main focus should be on all members reaching the current target of 2% of GDP.
Jens Stoltenberg declined to answer a specific question about Trump's remarks, but told reporters: "I think we should first get to 2%, focus on that now... the good thing is that we are moving to that."
For decades after the end of the Cold War, he said, NATO countries had cut defense budgets as tensions fell, and now needed to increase them at a time when tensions were rising.
Previous US presidents have urged Europe to take more responsibility for their defense and reduce the burden on US taxpayers of maintaining forces in Europe long after the end of the Cold War, but none as bluntly as Trump.
The Brussels meeting comes less than a week before Trump is due to hold his first summit with Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki, reviving concerns among US allies over his proximity to the Russian president.
Trump's main objection is that all but a handful of member states have still not increased their defense budgets to meet a goal of spending at least 2% of their annual economic output on defense by 2024.
Of NATO'S 29 members, just five meet that target this year: the US, Greece, Estonia, the UK and Latvia.
However, several, such as Poland and France, are close to the mark.
All 29 NATO members released a declaration which reaffirmed a commitment to increase military spending.
The communiqué also condemned "Russian aggression", including the annexation of Crimea, the use of a nerve agent in southern England and "election interference". (Source: BBC News)
NATO’s defining Article 5 principle for collective defense states that an attack on one nation is an attack on them all and was invoked only once, by North American and European allies after the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. Article 5’s mutual defense is why it’s important that NATO nations spend money on weapons and soldiers to ensure they’re prepared to defend themselves, particularly in the face of Russian aggression.
Although Trump treats the 2% spending mark as if it were an international mandate, it is not.
The figure was established in 2002 when members agreed upon a non-binding target to contribute 2% of Gross Domestic Product to collectively share the burden of defense costs. It was further ensconced in 2014 at a summit in Wales when all the nations that were not meeting the 2% target made a pledged to reach the mark within a decade.
Jorge Benitez, NATO expert at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank, said Trump has made it clear that he misunderstands two key facts about NATO.
“Trump does not understand that each ally spending 2% of GDP on defense is a goal, not a debt,” he said. “It is a pledge for common action, not a loan from the United States. Trump also does not understand that the 2% target is for national defense spending, not money owed to the U.S.” (Source: Time)
Story Date: July 12, 2018