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    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, front left, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, front left, stand with other NATO defense ministers during a group photo at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017.

    NATO Chief Downplays Pentagon's Head 2% Defense Spending Ultimatum

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    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday downplayed US demands for all NATO members to reach the alliance's 2-percent defense spending target, stressing that the threshold is a common decision.

    MUNICH (Sputnik) — On Wednesday, US Defense Secretary James Mattis threatened to cut US defense commitments unless all NATO members met the spending target. New US President Donald Trump criticized the alliance on numerous occasions during his election campaign, calling it obsolete and vowing to make all members pay their fair share.

    "This is not only a message from the United States, this is actually a message that was agreed by 28 heads of state and government of all the 28 NATO-allied countries back in 2014," Stoltenberg said upon arrival to the Munich Security Conference.

    The NATO chief emphasized that the target would have to be reached within a decade and NATO's spending defense boost would be gradual after years of cutbacks.

    "All allies agreed on the need to increase defense spending. European allies, Canada have to invest more in our shared security. We agreed in 2014 to gradually increase the defense spending and gradually move towards our 2 percent target," he said.

    Stoltenberg noted that Romania, one of the more recent Eastern European alliance ascendants, had announced that it would meet 2 percent target as early as this year.

    Only a handful of NATO members have reached the 2-percent target as of 2016. The United States is the top spender, allocating over 3.6 percent of its GDP on defense, followed by Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia and Poland. The remaining 23 members are below target.

    NATO's overall European defense spending fell at rates of around 2 percent per year until the 2014 Wales summit. In 2015, spending increased 0.6 percent before surging 3 percent in 2016, according to official NATO data.

    Related:

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    Bulgaria Calls for National Debates on Raising NATO Spending Amid US Pressure
    Russian Envoy Grushko Says NATO's Increased Spending May Lead to New 'Cold War'
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    defense spending, NATO, James Mattis, Jens Stoltenberg, United States
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