Spending on defense by European members of NATO will grow for the first time in a decade, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told the Financial Times in an interview published on May 31.
“The forecast for 2016, based on figures from allied nations, indicates that 2016 will be the first year with increased defense spending among European allies for the first time in many, many years,” Stoltenberg said.
“We are faced with uncertainty. We are faced with more threats, more security challenges, than in a generation," he said.
Last year, NATO's European allies spent $253 billion on defense compared with U.S. military spending of $618 billion. That amounts to about 1.43 percent of the allies' gross domestic product, thus putting them about $100 billion under their 2 percent annual spending commitments, The Financial Times reported.
NATO did not provide exact figures for 2016, but Baltic states which border Russia have announced large military spending increases this year, with Latvia's spending surging by 60 percent, Lithuania's jumping by 35 percent, and Estonia's and Poland's both increasing by 9 percent. The United Kingdom's military spending is also expected to increase this year.
“We still have a long way to go, but the picture’s better than it was before," Stoltenberg told The Financial Times.
Also on May 31, Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said after meeeting with Stoltenberg in Warsaw that four battalions are to be stationed in Poland and in the three Baltic states to give the region a greater sense of security.
A battalion typically has between 300 and 800 troops.
A July 8-9 NATO summit in Warsaw will decide how many additional NATO troops will be deployed on the eastern flank, and where exactly, to counter what Stoltenberg said was a "more assertive Russia, intimidating its neighbors, and changing borders by force."
Responding to Stoltenberg's statements and the news of increased European spending on defense, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov said Russia will respond to the growing NATO military presence near its borders.
"We have to ensure the security of our state," he said on May 31, but provided no details of Russia's plans.