America’s NATO allies are stepping up

Staff Columnist

By  Jens Stoltenberg,

Secretary-general of NATO

The Wall Street Journal, Monday, July 9, 2018

”Brussels, the city I’ve  called home  since becoming  secretary general  of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 2014, is only a couple hours’ drive from some of the 20th century’s bloodiest battlefields.

Many of them, such as Bastogne and Nijimegen Bridge , were the sights  of outstanding acts of valor by American soldiers.  Europeans will always be grateful for the sacrifices those men made to bring freedom back to our shores.

NATO was created in 1949 to ensure that none of us will ever have to live through another world war,  The result of the alliance has been  an unprecedented period of peace and security for the citizens  of North America and Europe.

The U.S. has had close allies and friends in NATO that no other world power can match.  Together, the alliance’s  29 countries represent half the world’s economic and military might.

But for all NATO has achieved, we cannot be complacent.  Facing the most complex and dangerous security environment in a generation, we must invest more in our collective defense.  In an unpredictable world, we must do what is necessary to keep our nations safe.

All NATO allies understand this.    At our 2014 summit, each nation agreed to stop cutting defense budgets, increase expenditures, and move toward spending  2% of their respective gross domestic products on defense within a decade.

That pledge is being kept.  After many years of decline, allies have ended the cuts and started to increase national defense spending.  Last year NATO allies boosted their defense budgets by a combined  5.2%, the biggest increase in real terms, in a quarter of a century.  Now 2018 will be the fourth consecutive year of rising spending.

In 2014, only three allies – the Unite States, the  United Kingdom and Greece    met the 2% target.  This year, we expect that that number to rise to rise to eight , including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.  Furthermore, a majority  of allies have plans to meet their 2% commitments by 2024, while the rest are moving in the right direction.  There is still a long way to go, but NATO members have turned the corner on defense spending.

President Trump has been outspoken on this issue, and I thanked him for his leadership when we met in the White House in May.  The upswing in NATO defense spending over the past year and a half demonstrates that his efforts are making a difference.

Increased spending is only one part of the equation, however.  Allies are also directing that money where it will matter.  When NATO leaders signed on to the 2% guideline, they also pledged to put at least 20% of their defense budgets towards major new equipment, such as fighter planes, tanks and warships.  Accordingly, NATO countries have added $18 billion in spending on equipment since 2014.  At the same time, NATO forces are doing more –in more places and in more ways  — to strengthen  our shared security. (Afghanistan, Iraq)”

Closing from Stoltenberg: “That’s why NATO allies invoked Article 5, our mutual-defense clause after 9/11    the first and only time we have done so.”

President Trump met with the NATO leaders in Brussels July 11th and 12th.

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