Stoltenberg: NATO Will No Longer ‘Strive For’ 2 Percent, It Will Be a Requirement

‘This is a result of a collective decision and collective responsibility,’ NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
Stoltenberg: NATO Will No Longer ‘Strive For’ 2 Percent, It Will Be a Requirement
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington on July 9, 2024. (DREW ANGERER/AFP via Getty Images)
Andrew Thornebrooke

WASHINGTON–NATO leadership is working to ensure that all 32 of its member states meet a minimum defense expenditure annually.

Speaking to a forum of international defense industry leaders on July 9, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance’s ambition to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense will be considered a requirement rather than an aspiration.

“This is a result of a collective decision and collective responsibility,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.

“It’s not good enough what we do now. We will do [the] work.”

NATO first adopted the goal of having its members contribute 2 percent of their GDP to defense in 2014, when Russia first invaded Ukraine. At that time, only three members met the threshold. By 2020, only nine did so.

That’s in part because the pledge’s language asked members to “strive toward” the 2 percent goal.

Still, the over-reliance of many NATO members on large contributors like the United States fostered something of a culture of resentment among many leaders. Among them was former President Donald Trump, who famously threatened to pull the United States out of the alliance if the other members didn’t pay more into NATO’s common fund.

Now, Mr. Stoltenberg said, 23 members meet or have exceeded the 2 percent threshold, and the rest have “promised” to develop plans to do so.

As such, he said, the alliance can “change that language to say that 2 percent is a minimum” rather than an aspiration.

Defense spending is a critical measure of NATO’s deterrent capability, as the alliance’s success is built on Article Five of its charter, which requires all members to come to the defense of any member that is attacked.

To date, Article Five has only ever been invoked once: when the alliance came to the aid of the United States and joined the War in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001 in New York City.

Mr. Stoltenberg said that the alliance’s renewed commitment to meeting better spending standards will ensure NATO’s continued success in deterring further attacks.

“NATO’s main purpose is to prevent war and pursue peace by providing credible deterrence every day and to ensure that there is no room for miscalculation or misunderstanding,” he said.

“As long as you have that credible deterrence, there will be no one attacking it.”

Mr. Stoltenberg delivered the comments to a room full of defense industry leaders, to whom he vowed to strengthen multiyear defense industrial collaboration between NATO members.

He said one way to accomplish that will be the alliance’s “defense industrial pledge” later this week, which is designed to increase the standardization of military equipment and build new production facilities throughout NATO’s 32 nations.

The NATO leader said the final difficulty in getting every member to meet the minimum 2 percent spending threshold is that finite budgets mean tough decisions about cutting domestic programs in favor of ensuring international defense.

To that end, he said, “defense” and “deficits” often go hand in hand but are necessary to prevent an attack by authoritarian powers like Russia or China.

“Together, our task is to deliver combat-credible capabilities to our warfighters at speed and scale so they can deter aggression against their populations and territory,” he said.

“There is no way to maintain a strong defense without a strong defense industry.”

Andrew Thornebrooke is a national security correspondent for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.