Stoltenberg: European NATO countries will increase defense spending for the first time in 10 years

The defense expenditures of NATO’s European member countries have increased for the first time in nearly a decade. This was said by NATO’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, during an interview with the Financial Times.

The newspaper notes that this increase shows that there is considerable concern over Russian aggression and the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean region.

“The 2016 forecast indicates that this will be the first time in many years that there is an increase in defense spending among NATO European countries,” Stoltenberg said.

He also said that Britain leaving the EU could accelerate the growth of defense spending in Europe. This is because Britain is a cornerstone of European security.

“The UK is one of the main elements of the defense structures of NATO. It has the largest expenditure among NATO’s European members and it makes the biggest investments into its defense. It ranks second in the NATO defense spending after the US. A strong UK is vital for the unity and stability of Europe,” Stoltenberg explained.

The Financial Times reported that last year, European NATO allies had spent $253 billion on defense, while the US spent $618 billion. For this year, it is predicted that European NATO allies will spend $100 billion more.

During the interview, Stoltenberg also said that European defense spending had steadily declined since 2008 when it was 1.7% of the GDP. Between 1985 and 1989, European NATO countries were spending 3.1% of their GDP on their military commitments.

NATO has not reported the exact figures on defense spending by European countries in 2016. This is due to the fact that the data received from these allies are preliminary and confidential.

According to official data obtained by the newspaper, the most significant increases this year will occur in the Baltic countries. Latvia will increase their defense budget by almost 60%, Lithuania will increase theirs by 35% and Estonia will increase theirs by 9%. Poland will also increase their spending by 9%.

Stoltenberg had previously reported that NATO will strengthen its presence in Poland after the summit, which will be held in Warsaw in July.