Fewer than half of NATO’s 29 member states are about to reach their military spending targets but the Alliance is expected to announce tomorrow (13 February) that the European Union‘s spending is rising. Despite the increase in overall spending, many member states have not adopted their strategies to boost their spending to meet the NATO’s long-established benchmark of 2% of their economic output. Emphasizing the shortfall, the White House plans to announce another increase of US defense spending in Europe. Washington will likely propose an increase of about $1 billion above the current annual $4.8 billion in military expenditure in the old continent.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will address NATO defense ministers on Wednesday (14 February) in Brussels and is expected to praise the progress at increasing spending. Having been urged by the Trump administration last year, NATO demanded allies to come up with their plans by the end of 2017, outlining how each country planned to reach the 2% target by 2024. To the frustration of the US, some allies submitted strategies for only the next three years. Other countries’ plans extend to 2024 but do not count with 2% of economic output.
About 14 countries have precise plans to reach 2% near the deadline but Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is not among them. NATO has said that the US, UK, Greece, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Romania and Lithuania are above or near the 2% target. France, Turkey, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Montenegro have plans to push their spending to the target. In 2014, NATO allies agreed that all would “move toward” the 2% benchmark of gross domestic product on defense over the upcoming ten years. While American officials have treated the 2% as a hard commitment, some of their European counterparts think that 2% was only to make a good-faith effort to boost spending.