Twenty-three members of NATO increased their defense spending in 2016, but only five countries met the alliance’s spending goal, according to an annual report released Monday.
“There has been progress,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday at a press conference. “But the job is far from done. We still do not have fair burden-sharing within our alliance.”
President Trump has been highly critical of members’ spending, insisting that they “pay their fair share.”
During the presidential campaign, Trump questioned whether he would come to the defense of allies who did not meet their spending goals and repeatedly called the alliance “obsolete.”
Members of the Trump administration have since reassured alliance members of their commitment to NATO and to upholding the Article 5 mutual defense requirement.
But they have also warned that it’s a political reality that if countries do not contribute more, the United States will “moderate” its commitment.
According to the report released Monday, the United States, United Kingdom, Greece, Estonia and Poland are still the only countries meeting the alliance’s goal of spending at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.
But several countries inched closer to the goal. Twenty-three members increased their spending in real terms, though measured as a share of GDP, just 16 countries saw increases.
Romania is on track to meet the 2 percent target this year, while Lithuania and Latvia are expected to follow in 2018, Stoltenberg said.
In addition, 10 members met the goal of spending 20 percent of their defense dollars on major equipment, up from eight in 2015, according to the report. The two new countries are Romania and Italy.
In total, alliance members’ defense spending increased 3.8 percent in 2016, or about $10 billion, numbers previewed by Stoltenberg last month.
Stoltenberg said increasing defense spending was important, and not just because of Trump’s comments.
“This is not just about a call from the Unites States and President Trump,” he said. “It is in Europe’s best interest to spend more on defense. We have a long way to go, but at least after years of decline, we are now starting to see an increase.”
By: Rebecca Kheel