Defence spending by European NATO allies inches up in 2016 | Reuters
By Gabriela Baczynska | BRUSSELS BRUSSELS Defence spending by European NATO states inched up for the first time in seven years in 2016, the military alliance said on Monday, but still remained below the threshold the new U.S. President Donald Trump said was crucial to achieve.Trump made NATO states in Europe nervous when he criticised the alliance as 'obsolete' during election campaign and then went on to suggest he could make U.S. commitment to their security conditional on them meeting the alliance's target of defence spending at two percent of their economic output
By Gabriela Baczynska
BRUSSELS Defence spending by European NATO states inched up for the first time in seven years in 2016, the military alliance said on Monday, but still remained below the threshold the new U.S. President Donald Trump said was crucial to achieve.Trump made NATO states in Europe nervous when he criticised the alliance as "obsolete" during election campaign and then went on to suggest he could make U.S. commitment to their security conditional on them meeting the alliance's target of defence spending at two percent of their economic output. Trump has since reaffirmed support for NATO but insisted Europeans must "pay their fair share." His aides have said Trump wants to see progress on that by the end of this year and that Washington could otherwise "moderate" its support.NATO said the U.S. defence spending last year stood at 3.61 percent of its Gross Domestic Product, compared to 3.58 percent in 2015. That compares to 1.47 percent for NATO's European allies last year and 1.44 percent the year before.NATO's overall figure for 2016 stood at 2.43 percent versus 2.40 percent in 2015."There has been progress but the job is far from done, we still have no fair burden-sharing within our alliance," NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. "It is realistic that all allies reach the goal of two percent."
Stoltenberg said Romania was due to meet the target this year, with Lithuania and Latvia expected to follow in 2018. "This is not just about a call from the Unites States and President Trump... It is in Europe's best interest to spend more on defence. We have a long way to go but at least after years of decline, we are now starting to see an increase." U.S. DEMANDS
Europe's low expenditure has long been a sore point for the United States, which provides the lion's share of the alliance funds. In 2016, the U.S. economy represented just below a half of the alliance's combined economic output, but nearly 70 percent of its defence expenditure, NATO's annual report showed.Defence spending by NATO's European allies has been on steady decline since the Cold War ended. But Europe has sought to reverse the falling numbers since its neighbour Russia annexed the peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.Combined with the growing worry over the spread of Islamic militancy and more failing states on their borders, this has given NATO members last year the first annual growth in defence spending relative to the size of their economies since 2009.
"When you are reducing spending at times of easing tensions, we have to be able to increase spending when tensions are increasing," Stoltenberg added. The decision by Britain, a leading military power on the continent, to leave the European Union has also galvanised the Europeans to do more on defence on their own. Of 28 EU states, 22 are also in NATO. Europe was last at two percent in 2000.Only four European NATO members - Estonia, Greece, Poland and Britain - met the two-percent standard last year. France came in at 1.79 percent, a tad below 2015, while Germany stood a 1.2 percent, just up from 1.18 in 2015. (Editing by Toby Chopra and Pritha Sarkar)
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By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.