ATI International News
February 14, 2018

U.S. Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, is hoping to press European allies to stick to a promise to increase military budgets as the United States offers an increase in its own defense spending in Europe.

For the first time, NATO countries have submitted plans to show how they will reach a target to spend two percent of economic output on defense every year by 2024, after President Donald Trump threatened to withdraw support for low-spending allies.

Fifteen of the 28 countries, excluding the United States, now have a strategy to meet a NATO benchmark first agreed in 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region, following years of cuts to European defense budgets.

It is unclear whether that will be enough to impress Trump when he attends a NATO Summit in July.

NATO data shows that Britain, Greece, Romania and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania meet, or are close to, the two percent goal, while France and turkey are among those countries set to reach it soon.

France plans to increase its defense spending by more than a third between 2017 and 2025, but Spain has said it will not meet the 2024 target. Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy, Portugal, Norway and Denmark are also lagging, while Hungary expects to meet the goal only by 2026.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, plans a multi-billion euro increase in defense spending but this is not enough to take it up to the 2 percent target by 2024.

The issue of low defense spending in Europe has long been an irritant in the united states, whose new national defense strategy centers on countering Russia after more than a decade of focusing on battling Islamist militants.