By Robin Emmott
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Europe and Canada will raise defense spending at the fastest pace for three years in 2017, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday, partly aimed at showing the United States they are committed to shouldering more costs.
U.S. President Donald Trump has made more expenditure his priority for NATO, using his first alliance meeting in May to scold European leaders about spending, which is at historical lows and does not meet NATO’s target of 2 percent of GDP.
This year’s 4.3 percent increase represents the fastest growth since more than a decade of cuts ended in 2014. Spending growth was 1.8 pct in 2015 and 3.3 percent last year, although it was unclear how near that takes members to the target.
Stoltenberg said the higher spending by Europe and Canada, some $280 billion this year, was NATO’s way of showing Washington that the United States had reliable allies, after Trump repeatedly questioned the alliance’s worth and only this month publicly committed to its mutual defense pledge.
“For me, America First is not America alone,” Stoltenberg told reporters, referring to the new administration’s foreign policy focused on U.S. interests and U.S. national security.
“No other great power has that, China, Russia do not have anything like the U.S. has in NATO, 28 allies that stand together with the United States, which provide support.”