US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told European leaders during his visit to Brussels that they should boost Europe’s efforts to increase military spending and warned that contributions to missions constituted a different spending goal. When speaking at the closed-door meeting of defense ministers at the NATO headquarters, Mr. Mattis urged Europe to follow the example of the United Sates and insisted that NATO allies should make the same kind of commitment.
While US officials declined to comment on Mattis’ address, they said that the remarks reminded Europeans that the message delivered a year ago on the urgency of military spending increase was still valid. Mr. Mattis said allies needed to honor spending pledges or risk less military support from the United States. During his visit to the EU’s capital, Mr. Mattis joined EU defense ministers to discuss the individual plans that NATO countries have submitted for the first time to demonstrate how they planned to reach the goal of 2% GDP on defense. Donald Trump is going to review the plans at a NATO summit in July.
15 out of 28 NATO countries, excluding the US, have come up with a strategy to meet the desired benchmark following 25 years of cuts to European defense budgets. However, a few EU countries have already said that they would not meet the target – Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy, Portugal, Norway and Denmark are all lagging. Hungary expects to meet the benchmark only by 2026, Germany – Europe’s biggest economy – only by 2024. NATO data further shows that Britain, Greece, Romania and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are about to reach the 2% target soon.