- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2018

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has come through on one of President Trump’s major demands, that members other than the U.S. dramatically boost their defense spending to relieve the burden Washington faces propping up the military alliance.

Speaking in Washington on Friday Mr. Stoltenberg assured the U.S. that America’s leading military allies across Europe and Canada have spent an additional $41 billion on defense over the past year.

“As you know, President Trump has been outspoken on this issue,” Mr. Stoltenberg said during a keynote address at the Heritage Foundation think tank. “And I have thanked him for his leadership on defense spending.”

At July’s NATO Summit in Brussels, Mr. Trump engaged in bare-knuckle diplomacy, praising the alliance as a “fine-tuned machine” but simultaneously threatening to withdraw the U.S. from the pact unless other member countries significantly boosted their defense budgets.

In the wake of the summit, there were disputed accounts over how much more money NATO members had agreed to contribute to increase defense spending, in addition to disputes over how money the U.S. contributes.

At the time, Mr. Trump said the U.S. pitches in 90 percent of NATO funding. NATO countered that it was actually about 67 percent.

What was less in dispute was the amount, 3.6 percent, that the U.S. spends as an overall percentage of its GDP on defense. During the summit, Mr. Trump called for NATO members to spend 2 percent immediately and gradually increase commitments to 4 percent of GDP.

On Friday in Washington, Mr. Stoltenberg brought some clarity to the confusion, stating that: “all NATO allies have agreed: To stop cuts to defense budgets. To increase spending. And to move towards spending 2 percent of GDP on defense by 2024.”

“NATO allies across Europe and Canada boosted their defense budgets by a combined 5.2 percent,” he said. “The biggest increase, in real terms, in a quarter of a century. We still have a long way to go. But we are moving in the right direction.”

He also praised the alliance for preserving peace and stability in Europe for the past 70 and providing “the foundation for an unprecedented period of prosperity”.

Mr. Stoltenberg was visiting Washington to meet with U.S. officials ahead of next month’s gathering of NATO-member country defense ministers. He also met with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, White House National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

• Dan Boylan can be reached at dboylan@washingtontimes.com.

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