European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said yesterday (16 February) that Europe must not cave in to US demands to raise military spending, arguing that development and humanitarian aid could also count as security. His chief spokesperson however said different things.
US President Donald Trump has raised questions about his commitment to the NATO defence alliance if European countries do not raise defence spending to 2% of economic output. The United States puts up 70% of alliance funds.
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis warned North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies on Wednesday that they must honour military spending pledges to make sure the United States does not moderate its support.
“It has been the American message for many, many years. I am very much against letting ourselves be pushed into this,” Juncker said in a speech on the sidelines of the international Munich Security Conference.
He said he knew that Germany would no longer have a budget surplus if it increased defence spending to 2% of GDP from 1.22%.
“I don’t like our American friends narrowing down this concept of security to the military,” he said, arguing it would be sensible to look at a “modern stability policy” made up of several components.
“If you look at what Europe is doing in defence, plus development aid, plus humanitarian aid, the comparison with the United States looks rather different. Modern politics cannot just be about raising defence spending,” he said.
“Europeans must bundle their defence spending better and spend the money more efficiently,” he added.
The Juncker statements however contrast with explanations by his chief spokesperson, made the same day.
Asked if the Commission would accept that EU members who raise their defence spending to reach the 2% target could see this effort discounted under the stability pact rules, Commission chief spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said the EU executive acknowledged that more needs to be done in the field of security and defence.
“The Commission has brought forward an ambitious defence package, aiming at increasing defence spending and deepening defence cooperation, responding quicker to crises, stepping up our cooperation with NATO and our international partners.”
He added that this commitment was contained in the first EU-NATO agreement signed last July at the Warsaw summit by Juncker, Council President Donald Tusk and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“Also, the European Council in December 2016 for the first time endorsed the NATO targets for defence expenditure for those EU members who are also NATO allies, therefore this call by the European Council includes the target of spending of 2% of national GDP on defence”.
Days after the NATO summit the then nominee of the Republican Party for the US presidency shocked allies by saying, in response to a question about potential Russian aggression towards the Baltic states, that if Moscow attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us”.