NATO confirms half of allies expected to meet spending goal

NATO confirms half of allies expected to meet spending goal
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About half of NATO allies are on track to meet the alliance’s defense spending goal by the 2024 deadline, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday.

“This is substantial progress and a good start, but we still have a long way to go,” Stoltenberg said ahead of a NATO defense ministers conference later this week.

The Trump administration has made greater burden-sharing of focus of its NATO engagement, pushing allies to submit concrete plans to achieve a goal, agreed to in 2014, for NATO members to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024.

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Based on those plans, Stoltenberg said, at least 15 of 29 allies are expected to reach that goal.

Stoltenberg’s confirmation comes after The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that most allies did not yet have plans to meet the goal.

At this week’s ministerial, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Trump identifies first soldier remains from North Korea | New cyber strategy lets US go on offense | Army chief downplays talk of 'Fort Trump' Pompeo backed continued US support in Yemen war over objections from staff: report Stand with veterans instead of predatory for-profit colleges MORE is expected to again deliver the administration’s message that allies need to do more.

“Clearly NATO has reversed what was a downward trend, and so now we're well into the second year, I believe, where the nations are spending more on defense,” Mattis told reporters traveling with him to Europe Sunday. “That's not to say that everyone's where they need to be or has plans for where they're going, and we'll discuss that. We're all sovereign nations, and these are sovereign decisions. So we've got to discuss it, so that's everyone carrying their share.”

Germany, in particular, is expected to feel pressure on defense spending. Europe’s biggest economy spends a little more than 1 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

“In Germany, you see that putting together the new government has delayed some of those kind of policy decisions, but I have a very close and collaborative working relationship with my counterpart, and she assures me that Germany will be doing more,” Mattis said Sunday.

Eight NATO allies are meeting the 2 percent goal now or expected to meet it this year: the United States, United Kingdom, Greece, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Romania and Lithuania.

Despite the slow progress, Stoltenberg said European allies and Canada have added $46 billion to their defense budgets since 2014.

Europe and Canada also invested $19 billion more on major equipment over the last three years, he added. NATO’s spending goals also ask allies to invest at least 20 percent of their defense budgets on major capabilities. Twenty-two allies are expected to meet that goal by 2024, Stoltenberg said.

Stoltenberg also touted NATO’s contributions to the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terror group, in which the alliance is expecting to expand its training of Iraqi forces, and the war in Afghanistan, where NATO is expecting to add 3,000 alliance troops this year.

“So we are stepping up on all three: cash, capabilities and contributions,” Stoltenberg said. “And I look forward to even more progress in the years ahead.”