Alwaght- Leading European countries have moved to increase their defense budget amid a growing rift with the United States over funding of the NATO military alliance.
US President Donald Trump has criticized European countries over their insufficient military spending and violating the earlier agreed target of 2% of GDP.
This latest development comes ahead of the NATO summit in Brussels which is expected to expose the discord threatening the 50-year-old alliance.
French President Emmanuel Macron is to sign an $18.8 billion increase in defense spending on July 13, According to the draft law, France will boost its military spending gradually over the next seven years to meet the NATO’s requirement of 2% of gross domestic product (GDP). However, more than half of this is to be spent after 2022, after Macron’s current term in office.
Germany, another NATO heavyweight and Europe’s largest economy, has also pledged its allegiance to meet the 2% of GDP target just ahead of the upcoming summit of the transatlantic alliance. Chancellor Angela Merkel dedicated her weekly video podcast to the importance of NATO, confirming Germany’s previously articulated intention to spend more on the military. In her address, she pointed out that challenges to NATO have changed drastically over recent years and the organization needs to "focus more on defending the alliance."
Although the move has been welcomed within NATO, in his interview with the German newspaper Bild, the organization’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pointed out that this is not enough and that the country needs to do more.
In recent months, the US president’s criticism of the insufficient military spending of NATO allies and their failure to meet the 2% of GDP target have cast a shadow over the alliance, as speculations arose that Donald Trump could pull US troops out from Europe. Tensions have grown ahead of the NATO summit, scheduled for July 11-12 in Brussels, as the US head of state sent letters to the leaders of some NATO states, including Belgium, Canada, Germany and Norway, to express Washington's discontent over the countries' non-compliance with their obligations to increase defense spending.
The 28 other NATO leaders fear a repeat of last month's G7 summit in Canada, where Trump rejected the closing statement.