European defence spending up for 3 years

BRUSSELS • Nato's European allies spent more on defence for the third year running in 2017 but their outlays failed to lift more countries above a target sought by the United States.

US President Donald Trump has demanded allies dedicate 2 per cent of national economic output on defence every year and has sought to keep up the pressure by calling that target, agreed at a Nato summit in 2014, a "bare minimum".

The 29-member Nato's 2017 annual report showed Estonia, Greece, Poland and Britain met the 2 per cent goal, the same group as in 2016, although alliance officials said Latvia, Lithuania and Romania will join them in 2018.

Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, failing states on Nato's borders, and the spread of Islamist militancy have pushed European governments to focus more on boosting their home defences after more than a decade of Nato-led operations in Afghanistan.

But the 2017 report may not be the breakthrough many Nato diplomats believe they need to mollify Mr Trump. He is expected to attend a summit at Nato headquarters in July.

In 2017, defence spending in Europe, including Turkey, rose 4.07 per cent, or by US$10.8 billion (S$14 billion), compared to 2016.

It marks a nearly US$50billion cumulative increase since spending began to rise in late 2014, the report said.

Overall, Nato's European allies and Canada combined spent an average of 1.45 per cent of their economic output on defence in 2017, compared to 3.57 per cent in the US.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said the shift in spending marks a significant change: "After years of declines, we are seeing three consecutive years of increases and more countries will meet the 2 per cent target."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2018, with the headline 'European defence spending up for 3 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe