US: NATO’s larger members must increase spending

'Russia's actions in Ukraine have made NATO's value abundantly clear', Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

'Russia's actions in Ukraine have made NATO's value abundantly clear', Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

WASHINGTON, D.C. – NATO’s larger members must step up their military spending, said U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel Friday, emphasizing that Russia’s actions in Ukraine have shown the value of the alliance.

Since the end of the Cold War, Washington’s military spending has become “increasingly disproportionate” within the alliance, Hagel said.

U.S. gross domestic product is smaller than that of the combined GDP of the other 27 alliance members, Hagel noted, but the U.S. continues to spend triple that of its allies on defense.

“We must see renewed financial commitments from all NATO members,” said Hagel, while speaking at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington. “Russia's actions in Ukraine have made NATO's value abundantly clear.”

Recalling a meeting with his Estonian counterpart earlier this week, Hagel said that he thanked the Estonian defense minister for “his nation’s renewed commitment and investment in NATO,” adding that many of NATO’s smaller members have committed to increase their defense spending.

“But the alliance cannot afford for Europe's larger economies and most militarily capable allies not to do the same,” he said, particularly as European economies grow stronger.

NATO allies are supposed to target two percent of their GDP for defense spending. Only four NATO members actually met that requirement in 2013, the U.S., Estonia, Greece and Great Britain.

The call for increased contributions comes as heightened tensions persist between Russia and the West after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and what the West says are Russia’s destabilizing actions in the east of Ukraine.

“Over the long term, we should expect Russia to test our alliance's purpose, stamina and commitment,” said Hagel. “Future generations will note whether at this moment of challenge, we summoned the will to invest in our alliance. We must not squander this opportunity or shrink from this challenge.”

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