Jen Stoltenberg, speaking ahead of his meeting with US defence chief James Mattis, promised to fix the alliance’s funding “challenge” after a defence expert championed a “European pillar” of defence, worryingly echoing calls for an EU army.
Mr Stoltenberg said, while Nato’s European allies had increased military spending by nearly four per cent, several countries still failed to meet the target of two per cent of GDP being spent on defence.
“We are aware that several Nato allies are struggling with the budgets, with deficits and with challenges related to how to increase defence spending,” he said.
“Having said that, this is always a question of how to prioritise defence. And when 28 allies agreed, I expect all 28 allies to deliver.”
Jens Stoltenberg has warned NATO members to hit pre-agreed defence spending targets
We are aware that several Nato allies are struggling with the budgets
According to Nato estimates, just four countries – the UK, Poland, Greece and Estonia – joined the United States in meeting the two per cent target in 2016.
President Donald Trump has continually said Nato partners must pay their way and not simply rely on the US for back-up, raising fears over the US’s continued commitment to the alliance under his leadership.
Jean-Marie Guehenno, CEO of International Crisis Group, an independent conflict prevention organisation, has called on Nato’s European members to step up their defence spending.
The Frenchman indicated the new direction in foreign policy by President Trump should act as a catalyst for change, warning: “Nato is about North America’s engagement in Europe, and Europeans, working with Canada, must take the initiative in the proposing a vision adapted to the 21st century.
“Otherwise, they run the risk that a president who has little time for the Continent will see his European allies simply as adjuncts to an ‘America First’ strategy – and blatantly ignoring their interests.”
Upon his first meeting with President Trump’s defence chief, Mr Stoltenberg will focus on reassuring his American colleagues, stressing the importance of “fair burden-sharing”.
Speaking ahead of the visit, Mr Stoltenberg said: “Fair burden-sharing and increase defence spending underpins the trans-Atlantic alliance.
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“If we reduce spending in times when tensions are going down, we have to be able to increase defence spending when tensions are going up, as they are.”
The British Government has rejected claims a think tank’s calculation that the UK’s spending on defence has dipped below Nato’s two per cent target.
The international institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) has calculated that the UK had spent 1.98 per cent of its GDP on defence in 2016.
NATO training exercises Wed, June 8, 2016
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty
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Polish troops land with parachutes at the military compound near Torun, central Poland as part of the NATO Anaconda-16 military exercise
The Ministry of Defence said the figures were “wrong” and insisted that the UK spent 2.21 per cent of GDP in 2016.
Ukip defence spokesman Bill Etheridge said the news was “hugely embarrassing for the country and shows just how long on the agenda the UK military is to this government”.
He added: “We have a crisis in armed forces recruitment despite government protestations there is no problem. We have a severe lack of heavy artillery, submarines able to work, aircraft and insufficient infantry fighting vehicles.
“The UK should not be in a position where an uplift in GDP means we miss our two per cent target. We should be spending much more than that because we have ground to make up after years of defences.”
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