Defense

NATO pledges to up defense spending after Trump pressure

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NATO’s chief on Wednesday said U.S. allies will up their defense spending by about $12 billion this year after coming under pressure from President Trump to increase their military budgets, according to multiple reports.

Secretary Gen. Jens Stoltenberg said that Europe’s NATO allies and Canada will jointly raise defense spending by 4.3 percent in 2017. He added that the countries have increased spending by nearly $46 billion over the last three years.

NATO has “really shifted gears. The [spending] trend is up and we intend to keep it up,” he told reporters at NATO headquarters.

Trump has repeatedly criticized the amount NATO member countries spend on their militaries. NATO members agreed in 2014 to attempt to spend 2 percent of their nations’ gross domestic product on funding defense.

Member nations fund their own defense spending under the NATO umbrella, however, instead of paying the alliance.

While in Brussels last month for a NATO summit, Trump scolded his fellow NATO allies, saying member nations “must finally contribute their fair share” and meet their financial obligations.

Stoltenberg said that 25 of NATO’s 29 allies will attempt to raise defense spending in 2017.

Only the United States, Britain, Estonia, Greece and Poland met NATO’s spending goals in 2016. Romania plans to meet the 2 percent by the end of the year and Latvia and Lithuania expect to do the same in 2018.

Individual countries’ figures will be released on Thursday, after approval by NATO ambassadors, Stoltenberg added.

The comments come a day before NATO defense ministers will meet in Brussels to discuss rising threats such as Russia, cyber attacks and terrorism.

“To keep our nations safe, we need to keep working to increase defense spending and fairer burden-sharing across our alliance,” Stoltenberg said.

NATO officials also stressed that Trump’s pressure was not the only reason for the increase in defense spending, Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula had a bigger impact, they said.

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