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NATO Chief Urges European Nations To Increase Defense Spending

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has urged Germany and other European nations to spend more on their defense.

The comments were published on April 4 in the German business newspaper Handelsblatt.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been outspoken in calls for NATO members to spend more on their defense to ease the burden on the United States.

Stoltenberg said his call for increased defense spending by European countries was not directly linked to Trump’s demands.

He said the move was more because of Europe’s proximity to such countries as Russia, Syria, and Iraq, which are causes of potential tensions for Europeans.

"After the end of the Cold War, it was right to cut defense spending," Stoltenberg told Handelsblatt. "But if we reduce spending when tensions are going down, we also must be able to increase defense spending when tensions are going up -- and now they are going up."

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged his counterparts at a March 31 NATO meeting to boost defense spending or come up with plans to reach the alliance's budget targets.

He said Washington is spending a "disproportionate share" on defense compared with its partners.

At the meeting, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said it was "completely unrealistic" that his country could reach a defense spending target of 2 percent of gross domestic product, set by NATO in 2006.

Based on reporting by dpa and Handelsblatt