NATO chief hails record defense spending and warns that Trump’s remarks undermine security

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that European allies and Canada have ramped up defense spending to record levels, as he warned that former U.S. President Donald Trump was undermining their security by calling into question the U.S. commitment to its allies.

Stoltenberg said that U.S. partners in NATO have spent $600 billion more on their military budgets since 2014, when Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine prompted the allies to reverse the spending cuts they had made after the Cold War ended.

“Last year we saw an unprecedented rise of 11% across European allies and Canada,” Stoltenberg told reporters on the eve of a meeting of the organization’s defense ministers in Brussels.

In 2014, NATO leaders committed to move toward spending 2% of their gross domestic product on defense within a decade. It has mostly been slow going, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two years ago focused minds. The 2% figure is now considered a minimum requirement.

“This year I expect 18 allies to spend 2% of the GDP on defense. That is another record number and a six-fold increase from 2014 when only three allies met the target,” Stoltenberg said.

On Saturday, Trump, the front-runner in the U.S. for the Republican Party’s nomination this year, said he once warned that he would allow Russia to do whatever it wants to NATO members that are “delinquent” in devoting 2% of GDP to defense.

President Joe Biden branded Trump’s remarks “dangerous” and “un-American,” seizing on the former president’s comments as they fuel doubt among U.S. partners about its future dependability on the global stage.

Stoltenberg said those comments call into question the credibility of NATO’s collective security commitment -– Article 5 of the organization’s founding treaty, which says that an attack on any member country will be met with a response from all of them.

“The whole idea of NATO is that an attack on one ally will trigger a response from the whole alliance and as long as we stand behind that message together, we prevent any military attack on any ally,” Stoltenberg said.

“Any suggestion that we are not standing up for each other, that we are not going to protect each other, that does undermine the security of all of us,” he said.

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