In the wake of US President Donald J. Trump‘s housefire antics during a key meeting held at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels on July 11 where he lashed out at Germany for its domestic trade policies and admonished his Western allies for “living off the US’ protection” and demanded that each of the 28 other NATO members commit an enormous 4% of their GDP to defence spending, for an enormous raise to defense spending at NATO, the alliance’s Norweigian Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg formally requested that all NATO members reach their agreed commitment of 2% of GDP as soon as possible.
Stoltenberg’s announcement came after Trump stunned the leaders of the alliance, as well Stoltenberg, during a closed meeting at NATO’s headquarters, when he demanded that his allies needed to surpass even the United States in their defence spending by committing 4% of GDP to maintain their military capabilities.
The US vastly outspends its closest rival, China, in terms of military spending, with an annual budget of over $686 billion, which amounts to 3.6% of the country’s GDP going to defence.
“During the president’s remarks today at the NATO summit he suggested that countries not only meet their commitment of 2% of their GDP on defence spending but that they increase it to 4%. The president raised this same issue when he was at NATO last year,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “President Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and, at a very minimum, meet their already stated obligations,” she added.
At present, Greece, the UK, France, Poland, Romania, and Estonia currently spend more than 2% of their annual budget on defence, with two others – Lithuania and Latvia – on track to meet the stated threshold in 2018. Many of the smaller NATO nations, such as Luxembourg, are not required by the NATO charter to meet the two per cent GDP target if they spend a lot of money on new military equipment, logistics, and contributions to NATO operations.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged to boost German military spending to more than 1.5% of GDP by 2024 in the wake of Trump’s criticisms, but has been unsuccessful in explaining to Trump’s handlers, as well as the president himself, that Germany is far and away the second largest net contributor to NATO’s integrated command structure, and is home to NATO’s Allied Air Command located at Rammstein Air Base – the largest in Europe and, along with Aviano Air Base in Italy, a vital link in the NATO air defence ring for the alliance.
The German defence ministry also announced earlier this years that it will soon be home to a new hi-tech NATO logistics command centre aimed at deterring Russia, which will be housed in the southern German city of Ulm.
Following Trump’s statements, Stoltenberg told journalists that the allies should focus on achieving the 2% target.
“In order to be prepared for the challenges we face, we need to invest more and better in defence. We all agree that we do not have fair burden-sharing in our Alliance today. We all agree that we need more cash in national defence budgets, more modern capabilities,” Stoltenberg added, suggesting that NATO is making progress towards that direction. “For a quarter of a century, many of our countries have been cutting billions from their defence budgets. Now, they are adding billions, all allies are increasing defence spending,” he said, underlining that the majority of the member states have plans to reach the 2% by 2024. Last year saw the biggest increase in defence spending since the end of the Cold War. We have agreed to develop national plans on burden-sharing and based on the national plans of European Allies and Canada, we expect $266 billion in extra money for defence between now and 2024”, said Stoltenberg, who also vowed to protect the unique unity of NATO, despite Trump’s open hostility.
“We do have disagreements, but most importantly, we have decisions that are pushing this alliance forward and making us stronger,” Stoltenberg told journalists. “At the end of the day, we all agree that North America and Europe are safer together,” he adding before mentioning that the Western allies have unanimously agreed to a Readiness Initiative that will be set up by 2020 and includes 30 mechanised battalions, 30 air squadrons, and 30 combat vessels that can ready to use within 30 days or less.
Stoltenberg also said the NATO Command Structure will be updated with more than 1,200 new personnel that will be guided from the new logistics Command Centre in Ulm.