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12 Jul, 2018 11:18

Stoltenberg, Macron insist on 2% GDP defense spending after Trump's push to double it

Stoltenberg, Macron insist on 2% GDP defense spending after Trump's push to double it

French President Emmanuel Macron has denied that NATO states agreed to increase defense spending beyond previous targets, pushing back on Donald Trump’s claim, earlier on Thursday, that the alliance agreed to more ambitious plans.

Commenting on the outcome of the two-day NATO summit, the French president said that the allies were sticking with an agreement reached in 2014, which calls for all states to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense.

“Everyone agreed to raise spending as they agreed in 2014, and everyone agreed to respect the commitments they made. We reaffirmed a credible budget strategy that meets our needs,” Macron told journalists. The French president also criticized Trump’s suggestion that the target for NATO members’ defense spending should be raised from two to four percent of GDP.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a similar statement, while leaving the door open to the possibility of a new target down the road.

“We’ll have to talk about to what extent we can do more on defense. We presented the current situation. But considering the discussion among the European allies, not only the Americans, I think we need to ask ourselves consistently what more we can do,” she said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg later told CNN that member states reaffirmed their commitment to the two percent of GDP target. He emphasized that NATO states should strive to invest more in defense, but stopped short of confirming Trump’s claim that the alliance had agreed to the four percent goal.

“So we have a commitment to spend two percent. The important thing now is that we need to invest more - we need to get more money. And the good thing is that, very much because of that very clear message from President Trump on this meeting, I think that allies understand this need to do that,” Stoltenberg said.

Earlier, Trump had announced that the allies had agreed to dramatically increase spending.

“Everyone’s agreed to substantially up their commitment. They’re going to up it at levels that they’ve never thought of before,” Trump told reporters after the second day of the Brussels summit. He added: “The commitment was at 2 percent, ultimately that’ll be going up quite a bit higher than that.”

Macron also pushed back on media reports that the US leader had threatened to unilaterally pull out of NATO. Trump did not threaten to withdraw “at any moment, either in public or private,” he said.

NATO members agreed in 2014 that they would aim to spend two percent of GDP on defense by 2024. Trump upped the ante during the Brussels summit, demanding that member states increase spending from two percent to four percent. Regarding the minimum goal (that of two percent), he urged allies to reach it “immediately” rather than through a gradual spending increase.

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