NATO ‘must become more agile and share burdens if it is to tackle growing threats’, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon will say today.
Michael Fallon is understood to be pressing NATO members to ‘step up’ defence spending’ during a two-day defence meeting at NATO HQ in Brussels.
Michael Fallon was the first minister US Defense Secretary Mattis called after his appointment, which the MoD say reflects ‘the strength of the UK-US Defence relationship’
It is understood that their their hour-long meeting at NATO HQ was the first bilateral working session undertaken today.
This comes as the International Institute for Strategic Studies claim British defence spending was 1.98% of GDP in 2016, below the 2% target set out by NATO.
In 2006, NATO allies set a target to spend 2% of Gross Domestic Product on defence. The UK oftens meets this target but when reporting its defence expenditure to NATO, the UK now includes several items of expenditure which had not previously been included.
IISS director general John Chipman said:
“In 2016, only two European Nato states – Greece and Estonia – met the aim to spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence, down from four European states that met this measure in 2015. The UK dipped slightly below this at 1.98 per cent, as its economy grew faster in 2016 than its defence spending.
Nonetheless, the UK remained the only European state in the world’s top five defence spenders in 2016. If all Nato European countries were in 2016 to have met this 2 per cent of GDP target, their defence spending would have needed to rise by over 40 per cent.”
The Ministry of Defence however has denied the United Kingdom has failed to reach NATO’s defence spending target of 2% of GDP.
An MOD Spokesperson said:
“These figures are wrong: NATO’s own figures clearly show that the UK spends over 2% of its GDP on defence.
Our defence budget is the biggest in Europe, the second largest in NATO, and it is growing each year as we invest £178 billion in new equipment and the UK steps up globally, with new ships, submarines and aircraft over the next decade.”
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:
“NATO has been a guarantee of mutual security for more than half a century. Britain is now calling for our partners to step up and share burdens on spending and help it become more agile in dealing with new threats including cyber and terrorism.
As leading player in the Alliance we recognise the importance of backing up our operational and exercise commitments with investment in new equipment to deal with threats to our security.”
It is understood that over the two-day ministerial meeting, defence leaders will discuss issues such as ‘protecting NATO’s southern border, developing NATO’s deterrence and defence posture, and strengthening the transatlantic bond’.