"Trump's statements did not go unnoticed, judging by the persistence with which he made them. NATO is closely connected to the United States," Pascal Boniface, director of the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS), told Sputnik France. "In any case, the increase in military spending upon the demand of the US and NATO is accompanied by pressure, as we could see yesterday morning, in relation to Germany, for example."
At the recent NATO summit in Brussels, which took place on July 11-12, US President Donald Trump reiterated his discontent with Washington's European allies which have not met the 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) commitment.
"Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russia. They pay only a fraction of their cost. The US pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe, and loses Big on Trade!" the US president tweeted on July 12, singling out Germany and stressing the necessity to increase the defense expenditures from 2 percent to 4 percent of GDP.
….On top of it all, Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, Billions of Dollars for their Energy needs coming out of a new pipeline from Russia. Not acceptable! All NATO Nations must meet their 2% commitment, and that must ultimately go to 4%!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 12 июля 2018 г.
According to Boniface, Europeans "are free to choose whether to succumb to blackmail or not."
"Now Europeans have two visions of the problem," the French scholar elaborated. "Some see Russia as a threat to their existence. These countries are, for example, Poland and the Baltic States that fear, above all, that the US will abandon them. Therefore, when Trump is making threats, this frightens them a lot."
Other European states, like France or Germany, "believe that there is no need to succumb to this kind of blackmail, that decisions must be made at the state level and that if we confine ourselves to the implementation of Washington's decision, this will in some way affect our independence," he underscored.
A lot of controversy is simmering around Trump's claim that NATO allies have agreed to increase defense spending beyond 2 percent.
Great success today at NATO! Billions of additional dollars paid by members since my election. Great spirit!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 12 июля 2018 г.
However, French President Emmanuel Macron dismissed Trump's statement.
"Everyone agreed to raise spending as they agreed in 2014, and everyone agreed to respect the commitments they made," Macron said, referring to the "Defense Investment Pledge" signed by NATO member states at a 2014 summit in Wales. The agreement stipulated that those allies that do not already meet the NATO-agreed commitment would gradually increase spending in coming years.
Earlier, The Telegraph reported that Paris is to sign an $18.8 billion increase in defense spending on July 13 to meet the 2 percent of GDP mark: France is due boost its military spending gradually over the next seven years.
"France agreed to increase its military spending by 2 percent not to please Trump, but to satisfy its own needs," Boniface said, adding that the country's armed forces are currently engaged in operations in Sahel and other regions. "French authorities believe that it is necessary to increase military spending… The increase in the military budget does not necessarily mean adherence to the will of the United States."
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's (SIPRI) May report revealed that 29 NATO member states spent almost $900 billion on defense in 2017, which is 52 percent of the world's total military expenditures. For comparison's sake, Russia's military spending decreased by 20 percent in 2017 — for the first time in over 20 years — equaling to $66.3 billion.
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