Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday called on the alliance’s 31 members to increase their defence investment pledges above the target of 2 per cent of GDP.
“In a contested and dangerous world, we cannot take security for granted,” said Mr Stoltenberg at the opening of a meeting of Nato foreign affairs ministers at the alliance’s Brussels headquarters.
“We must invest in our defence.”
Not all Nato members endorse Mr Stoltenberg's calls, with divisions apparent as ministers arrived at the meeting after participating in a flag-raising ceremony on Tuesday to accept Finland into the alliance.
The meetings are largely devoted to preparing a heads of government summit in Lithuania in July, during which Mr Stoltenberg hopes that allies will increase their defence pledges.
Allies first committed to a minimum of 2 per cent of their GDP to defence spending in 2006, a pledge which was renewed in 2014.
But most countries still lag behind that goal, which should be “a floor, not a ceiling”, according to Mr Stoltenberg.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year has heightened security fears within the alliance and its members rushed to increase military production.
Some Nato members — mostly those that border Russia, such as Poland — have increased spending and publicly stated targets above 2 per cent of their GDP.
Estonia has been leading a push for the target to be raised to 2.5 per cent of GDP.
A quarter of the sum should go to new capabilities investments, said Estonian Foreign Affair Minister Urmas Reinsalu on Wednesday.
“Two per cent is not valid,” Mr Reinsalu told reporters, adding that only one third of Nato allies will reach that threshold. Estonia is committed to spending 3 per cent of its GDP on defence.
“We need to deliver more,” said Mr Reinsalu. “One thing is nominally to speak about percentage of GDP, but the core is to look to the share of defence investments.”
Mr Reinsalu’s Czech and North Macedonian counterparts said their countries had pledged to reach the 2 per cent target by 2024.
Finland exceeds that figure.
“It’s important that everybody comes to 2 per cent level at least,” said Finnish Foreign Affairs Minister Pekka Haavisto.
Not all Nato allies agree. The strongest resistance came from Germany.
Foreign Affairs Minister Annalena Baerbock acknowledged that Nato members in Eastern Europe had “particular worries.”
She said that it was important to not just talk about “raw numbers” but “what it means in practice”.
“Measuring by GDP means that in economically difficult times, where your budget and economic strength tend to be smaller, you can achieve Nato goals without having achieved anything militarily,” she said.