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US allies in Europe to boost defence spending for fourth year
[BRUSSELS] The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) said its European members would increase defence spending for a fourth consecutive year in 2019 as US President Donald Trump keeps up demands on allies to expand their military budgets.
The combined defence budgets of its European member countries would average 1.58 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year, up from 1.53 per cent of GDP in 2018, Nato said in a report published on Tuesday. The levels were 1.48 per cent in 2017 and 1.46 per cent in 2016.
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hailed the new figures in a press conference in Brussels and said defence ministers from the 29-nation alliance would discuss transatlantic "burden sharing" at a June 26-27 meeting.
The US accounts for more than two-thirds of Nato's defence expenditure and Mr Trump has become increasingly vocal in pressuring Europe to foot more of the common security bill.
Discord between the US and its longtime partners has grown after Mr Trump withdrew from a landmark global agreement to fight climate change, abandoned an accord aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions and imposed metal-import tariffs on national-security grounds dismissed by many countries.
In 2014, Nato members pledged to spend at least 2 per cent of GDP on defence by 2024. In Europe, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Poland, Romania and the UK will achieve the goal this year, according to the data released on Tuesday by Nato.
Germany, Europe's biggest economy and a particular target of criticism by Mr Trump, will boost its military budget to 1.36 per cent of GDP this year compared with 1.24 per cent in 2018, according to Nato.
The US is boosting its military expenditure to 3.42 per cent of GDP in 2019, up from 3.3 per ent last year. Canada will register 1.27 per cent compared with 1.29 per cent in 2018. On average defence spending by Nato members will rise to 2.51 per cent of GDP this year, a third annual increase.