Brussels – NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg has urged allies to stick to the goal of spending two per cent of gross domestic product on defence, despite the pressure that the coronavirus outbreak will put on government expenditure.
The crisis will have severe consequences for government budgets, although, it is too early to assess the long-term consequences, the head of the defence alliance said on Thursday.
However, he stressed that NATO allies had decided to boost defence expenditure because we live in a more uncertain, more unpredictable world.
“This has not changed. So, I expect the allies to stay committed to investing more in our security,’’ he added.
The two per cent defence target is politically sensitive, with U.S President Donald Trump persistently calling on other allies to boost military spending.
Nine of NATO’s 29 allies reached the goal last year, the alliance confirmed in its 2019 annual report, published on Thursday.
Defence expenditure increased by an overall 4.6 per cent year on year, in the fifth consecutive year of growth.
By investing more in security and armed forces, NATO allies are boosting their capacity to deal with crises, natural disasters and other unforeseen events, Stoltenberg noted.
He pointed to military logistics and support being provided during the coronavirus outbreak, such as through military hospitals and help to control national borders.
The crisis has led NATO to adapt its operations, for example by modifying or cancelling military exercises.
However, Stoltenberg said that it had not undermined NATO’s ability to act.
`Our forces are ready. NATO is working. And if needed, we are able to react,’’ the NATO chief said.