France to meet NATO spending target in 2020, but most allies fail

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FILE PHOTO: Then-US Vice President Joe Biden (right) meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, 7 February 2015. REUTERS / Michaela Rehle / File Photo reuters_tickers

This content was published on October 21, 2020 – 15:50

By Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – France, one of Europe’s largest military powers, will meet the 2% NATO spending target the United States is seeking this year, the alliance said on Wednesday, but most member states are still lagging behind in a sore spot for Washington.

France is expected to devote 2.1% of its economic output to defense in 2020, NATO said in a report, meeting the target set by NATO leaders at a 2014 summit after annexation by Russia from the Crimean Peninsula to Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that 2020 will be the sixth consecutive year of increased defense spending by European allies and Canada, up 4.3% in real terms.

“We expect this trend to continue,” he told reporters.

While France was joined by Norway for the first time at 2%, despite the coronavirus crisis that has sapped economies, only 10 of the 30 allies will meet the target this year, including the United States, according to the NATO report.

Italy, Spain and Belgium are among the least spenders.

The issue of defense spending is likely to remain an issue for the United States regardless of who wins the November 3 presidential election, diplomats, officials and experts say.

The reluctance of Europeans to spend more on defense, despite several countries hosting US troops in Europe, has been a major grievance of President Donald Trump, who has openly questioned NATO’s continued value in Washington.

It eroded confidence in a pillar of post-war European security – that US forces would defend alliance members from Russian aggression. European allies are hopeful that a victory for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, former vice president and staunch supporter of traditional Washington alliances, in the November 3 election would restore confidence.

Only the US, Britain, Greece, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, France, Norway, and Romania will spend 2% or more in 2020, although Turkey, Bulgaria and Croatia are close.

Germany, Europe’s largest economy, has pledged to meet NATO’s defense spending target by 2031.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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