Nato edges towards US spending demands, Germany lags

BRUSSELS: More European allies in Nato increased defence spending in 2018, with sharp rises in the Baltics, Poland and the Netherlands, but only six governments met a target sought by the United States — while Germany lagged and Canadian outlays fell.
European allies have tried to deflect threats from US President Donald Trump, who last year demanded countries double Nato’s defence spending goal of two per cent of economic output. They say security is not just about spending targets.
Nato’s 2018 annual report showed on Thursday that the US-led alliance moved closer to a pledge to dedicate 2 per cent of national economic output on defence every year, with European allies reaching the 1.51 per cent level, a five-year high.
“We face a paradox,” Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference as the report was released. “At a time when some are questioning the strength of the transatlantic bond, we are actually doing more together… than ever before.”
Trump, as the alliance’s de facto leader, has made defence spending a priority after years of defence cuts following the 1945-90 Cold War. He has questioned Nato’s value to Washington. While spending in Bulgaria, the Baltics and the Netherlands jumped some 20 per cent in 2018 compared to 2017, only Estonia, Greece, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Britain met the 2 per cent goal last year, although Riga and Vilnius joined the group. Romania is also close to reaching to target.
But spending in Canada fell by almost 11 per cent last year.
European governments have been pushed into more funding for militaries by Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, failing states on Nato’s outer borders, militancy and Trump’s demands that allies take a bigger share of the cost of defending Europe.
But growing economies have made meeting the 2 per cent target, and mollifying Trump, more challenging.
While Germany invested around 1.5 billion euros ($1.70 billion) more on defence in 2018, its spending as a percentage of gross domestic output (GDP), was stable at 1.23.
That puts Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, at the lower end of the Nato league table, well below the United States at 3.39. Belgium and Spain remain at below 1 per cent of GDP while Italy’s spending failed to rise as a percentage of the economy.
Stoltenberg defended Berlin, saying he had assurances that Germany would raise its defence outlays by 80 per cent between 2014 and 2024.
 — Reuters