NATO chief: US allies to spend $12 billion more this year


North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, excluding the USA, are slated to boost defense spending by 4.3 percent in 2017, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday, marking the third consecutive year of increased spending.

"I welcome the strong focus of President Trump on defense spending and burden sharing, because it is important that we deliver", Stoltenberg said Wednesday.

European NATO allies and Canada will spend around $12 billion more on combined defense spending this year, the alliance's chief has announced.

So far only five allies have met that benchmark - the US, Greece, Britain, Estonia and Poland. Romania is on course this year to join the ranks of the 2 percent club, followed by Latvia and Lithuania in 2018.

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The NATO chief said five allied nations had met their defence spending targets the previous year - now 2 per cent of gross domestic product - and expected Romania, Latvia and Lithuania to achieve the same by 2018.

Then, at a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders last month that was designed for Trump to reassure his allies of US defense commitments, he instead berated them for their spending and held back from an explicit commitment to NATO's bedrock principle that an attack on one country is the same as an attack on them all, Article 5 in the alliance's charter.

The latest USA figures put its defense spending at 3.2 percent of GDP. Instead, he used a speech there to demand that member states pay more for the alliance's defense.

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NATO's secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has insisted that the defense alliance's commitment to support each other militarily is just as crucial for USA security as it is for that of Europe and Canada.

On Thursday, allies also are expected to agree to new "capability targets" that will indicate areas were members can improve, such as obtaining more heavy equipment, air-to-air refueling capabilities, and forces ready to mobilize on short notice.

The vote was 423-4 in the House, where Trump's fellow Republicans hold a 48-seat majority, for a resolution "solemnly reaffirming" the USA commitment to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. "This means, over the last three years, European Allies and Canada spent nearly 46 billion USA dollars more on defence", he said.

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