Following pointed remarks by US President Donald Trump about the preponderance of the US contribution to NATO's budget, as well as what he regards as the bloc's obsolescence, NATO head Jens Stoltenberg is now claiming that bloc members must increase spending to reach the mandated 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), according to an interview he gave German business newspaper Handelsblatt.
Stoltenberg asserted that his remarks were not in response to Trump's suggestions that NATO was "obsolete," and that the bloc owed the US hundreds of billions of dollars for Washington's continued logistical, technological and financial support.
"After the end of the Cold War, it was right to cut defense spending," Stoltenberg said, according to Deutsche Welle. "But if we reduce spending when tensions are going down, we also must be able to increase defense spending when tensions are going up — and now they are going up."
After meeting with NATO representatives for the first time on Friday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that US military spending in support of the NATO mission was "no longer sustainable," and called for a new budget by May.
Tillerson encouraged European bloc members to spend more in what he framed as their own defense, particularly against the threat he claims is posed by Russia.
A whopping 70 percent of the total NATO budget is shouldered by the US, according to Deutsche Welle. Just four of the 28 bloc members — the UK, Greece, Estonia and Poland — have met the agreed-upon 2 percent military spending mark.
Germany currently budgets about 1.2 percent of its GDP for military spending. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the goal of spending 2 percent of the nation's GDP on military expenditures was not "reachable" or "desirable," according to Deutsche Welle, and suggested that monies spent supporting humanitarian causes, including economic aid intended to stabilize regional unrest, should be counted in that figure.
"Two percent would mean military expenses of some 70 billion euros [about $75 billion]," Gabriel said, adding, "I don't know any German politician who would claim that is reachable or desirable."
Stoltenberg also mentioned that the UK departure from the European Union will not affect the country's participation in the bloc.
It "will not change relations in NATO," he said.