NATO defense ministers to discuss growth of military spending

A further increase in military spending of NATO’s European members will be in the focus of the scheduled meeting of the alliance’s defense ministers in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, reports.

For the first time in the past 15 years, the US secretary of defense will not attend the meeting in person. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December 2023, could not travel to Brussels and will participate in the event via a video linkup.

Previewing the meeting on Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the ministers will address preparations for the upcoming NATO summit, due in Washington in July.

In his words, the alliance’s members will need to "invest more" in order to achieve the defense and deterrence goals, set during last year’s summit in Vilnius. He added that in 2024, 18 out of the alliance’s 31 members will spend more than 2% of their GDP for defense.

The alliance countries set the task to bring their military spending to 2% of GDP at the summit in Wales in September 2014, motivating it by the "Russian threat" in connection with the reunification of Crimea with Russia. In July 2023, the Vilnius summit decided that 2% of GDP should become the minimum level of defense spending for NATO countries, rather than a target.

Ramping up the production of ammunition will be among the priorities for defense expenditures of NATO’s European members. One portion of ammunition manufactured in Europe will be sent to Ukraine, another will replenish the alliance’s stocks.

In this regard, he mentioned the construction for a new ammunition factory in lower Saxony, launched by Germany this week. At full capacity, it will produce around 200,000 artillery shells per year.

Stoltenberg also underscored that the meeting will focus on the alliance’s military plans, including Steadfast Defender, the largest NATO exercise since the end of the Cold War. It will involve over 90,000 servicemen from all the 31 members of the alliance and Sweden and will be a "clear demonstration of our capabilities," Stoltenberg said.

At the same time, he added that NATO members saw no imminent military threat at this point.

Also, a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council will be held on the sidelines of the event.

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