Report: Europe’s Defense Spending Falls Short of Trump’s Target for NATO Members

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg / Getty Images

Most of America's allies in Europe have continued to fall short of President Donald Trump's stated goal of devoting at least two percent of economic output to defense spending, according to a new report.

Just three North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries, the United Kingdom, Estonia, and Greece, met the spending goal, the Wall Street Journal reported.

However, according to data released Thursday by NATO, spending in Europe did increase overall, thanks in large part to Germany's announced 2018 defense spending increase of €1.4 billion. The new budget, a 3.9 percent increase over the previous year, while significant, only qualified as 1.24 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

France's military spending, when taking inflation into account, rose 1.24 percent over the previous year, Italy's rose 1.68 percent, and the U.K.'s decreased 0.12 percent. Despite the U.K.'s drop, it still met the 2 percent of GDP goal.

Other spending changes included an increase in Spain's spending of 18.24 percent over the previous year and a 0.73 decrease in Belgium's spending, keeping the country's contribution at less than 1 percent of GDP.

One challenge in meeting the goal for some countries has been increased economic growth, making it more difficult for those countries to meet the 2 percent threshold unless they further boost their defense spending. Poland and Romania were both expected to meet the spending goal this year but failed to do so because of an surge in their economies.

NATO had previously stated it expected 15 countries to meet the spending goal by the year 2024.

In January 2017, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis stressed the importance of the German-U.S. alliance, and the two country's leadership positions in NATO to the German Minister of Defense. Mattis reassured the minister that the U.S. continued to have an "enduring commitment" to the alliance despite Trump's criticisms during the campaign.

While having denounced NATO during his presidential campaign, Trump clarified in April 2017 that he no longer considered the alliance "obsolete." Trump has, however, continued to criticize its members and in May, tweeted a criticism of Germany.