- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 14, 2017

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is urging the allies to step up defense spending on the eve of a first meeting between new U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his 27 counterparts in Brussels.

Stoltenberg said Tuesday that “fair burden-sharing and increased defense spending underpins the trans-Atlantic alliance.”

U.S. President Donald Trump hinted during the election campaign that he might not defend allies who refuse to contribute their fair share. His comments have alarmed European nations, particularly those near Russia’s border like the Baltic States and Poland.

NATO leaders have committed to halt spending cuts and raise their military budgets to 2 percent of gross domestic product.

Apart from the United States only four member countries — Britain, Estonia, Poland and debt-ridden Greece — have met the benchmark.

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