US President Donald Trump has raised the stakes for his European allies’ defence spending from 2% to 4% of GDP, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev told a small group of Bulgarian journalists at the NATO summit on Wednesday (11 July).
“This summit is very important because it needs to make proof of unity, solidarity and decisiveness. Unfortunately, the questions turned out to be more numerous than the answers. President Trump, who spoke first, raised the issue, not only the 2% to be attained as of today, but raised the bar higher – at 4.%,” Radev said.
Radev added that Trump “left immediately” afterwards. The Bulgarian President said that he was the only one to follow up on the issue raised by Trump, asking the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to react. “I spoke the 15th or so”, he said.
“I asked [Stoltenberg] about the “what if” scenarios. What happens with the transatlantic link, which is the backbone of NATO, if we don’t reach the 2% target, not speaking of a 4% target”, Radev said.
“I asked my question, and there was silence”, he said.
Radev further said that “nobody talks about the 2% target”, although in his words this is an existential matter for the alliance.
“NATO is not a stock exchange where you can buy yourself security. NATO is a union of sovereign countries, united by strategic goals and common values. But President Trump is right, on the other hand, as every country must contribute in today’s world of uncertainty, of growing threats, every country should abide by Article 3 by building effective capacities”, Radev said.
Article 3 of the North Atlantic Treaty reads:
“In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the Parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.”
Radev, who is a former military pilot and a former head of the air forces, recalled that in his country, the government was extremely reluctant to set aside budget means for improving the defence capacities.
Radev was elected as president as a candidate of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, beating the candidate of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, leader of the EPP-affiliated GERB party.
Asked about the atmosphere at the summit, Radev said that “it was not the most pleasant”.
At a separate press conference, Stoltenberg was asked about raising the 2% target. The NATO secretary general said that before talking of raising the target, it should first be attained.