02:37 GMT05 December 2020
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    All NATO allies are capable of raising their defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2024, the alliance’s former chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told Sputnik on Saturday.

    MUNICH (Sputnik) — Rasmussen stressed that the increase in defense spending is a measure to address the challenges of the new security environment in the world.

    "I think it is a realistic goal for all NATO members to reach 2-percent target by 2024. There is no reason to doubt that today's trends will be an upward trend. We need that in the new security environment," Rasmussen said on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

    NATO member states have pledged to spend more on defense but only five countries have reached the 2-percent target, prompting a threat from new US Defense Secretary James Mattis that the Pentagon would cut its defense commitments.

    Earlier, 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.

    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.

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg emphasized on Friday that the target would have to be reached in the next decade and NATO's spending on defense would gradually increase after years of cutbacks.


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