06:19 GMT +321 October 2018
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    Norway's Gap to NATO Demands Widens Following Drop in Defense Spending

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    Despite being among the world leaders in military spending per capita, Norway is still falling short of NATO's target for member states of at least 2 percent of GDP and is falling farther below the bar, as defense expenditures are predicted to fall further.

    This year, Oslo's defense expenses will amount to 1.56 percent of the Nordic nation's GDP, the Verdens Gang daily reported, citing Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen.

    By 2020, defense spending is expected to fall further to 1.5 percent, only to remain level until 2024, a government report indicated.

    The failure to meet the demands of NATO, of which Norway has always been a loyal member, has triggered the ire of Anniken Huitfeldt of the Labor Party, who heads the parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee.

    "We have been continually looking to get closer to NATO's goal of two percent. But now the government itself writes that we are actually moving away from that target, Huitfeldt said, demanding an explanation from the defense minister. Huiltfeldt also stressed that Norway has the lowest defense expenditure to GDP rate of all the countries bordering Russia.

    According to NATO's own figures, Norway spent 1.59 percent of its GDP on defense in 2017. Therefore, 2018 will see a reduction in proportional spending according to the figure provided by the government.

    According to Bakke-Jensen's response, though, the figures are somewhat uncertain.

    "They depend on economic development in general, the decisions ratified by parliament and the fulfillment of current long-term plans, potential new resolutions in individual budgetary years and other aspects in relation to the implementation of ratified plans," Bakke-Jensen wrote.

    READ ALSO: Norway Goes Korean With First Artillery Update in 50 Years

    NATO members are currently under pressure from US President Donald Trump and the alliance's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg who have repeatedly urged member states to meet the two percent target by 2024. Currently, however, only five nations, including the US, meet this demand.

    After meeting Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in Washington earlier this month, Trump said he had encouraged Norway to follow up on its commitment to reach the two percent target and suggested he believed that would soon happen, Verdens Gang wrote.

    ​"Now Solberg must answer to the American president that we are actually moving away from the target," Huitfeldt said.

    Last time Norway's defense expenditure exceeded the 2 percent goal was in 2002, when it stood at 2.2, according to the Military Budget website. Remarkably, though, Norway's fellow Nordic nations are all in the same boat as regards defense expenditures, and Oslo does not stand out as the worst "renegade."

    READ ALSO: Norway Perplexed What to Do With 'Nightmare Helicopters' After Decade's Delay

    Denmark's military expenses currently revolve at around 1.2 percent of the GDP, having dropped since 1988, when it was above 2 percent. In the fall of 2017, the Danish government announced its ambition to increase its defense budget by 20 percent over the next five years, a measure attributed to Russia allegedly "stepping up military activity in eastern and northern Europe."

    In Sweden, which currently still is non-aligned, although has been increasing cooperation with NATO, military spending has dwindled from 3.1 percent of the GPD in 1981 to a mere 1.1 percent in 2015. By contrast, the defense spending in Finland, a fellow non-aligned nation (and Russia's neighbor) lies at 1.3 percent of the GDP.

    ​Moscow has previously voiced its concern about the extension of the US military deployment in northern Norway, suggesting that the 330 US Marines stationed on Norwegian soil put the diplomatic relations between the two nations to the test.

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    Tags:
    defense spending, military expenditure, NATO, Donald Trump, Jens Stoltenberg, Erna Solberg, Scandinavia, Norway
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