Defence funding, terrorism dominate NATO meeting

Defence spending and the fight against terrorism are expected to dominate a two-day meeting of NATO defence ministers starting Wednesday.

The meeting will be the first to be attended by the U.S. administration team led by Secretary of Defence James Mattis.

All eyes will be on Mattis as NATO allies are seeking assurances on the U.S. commitment to the 28-nation pact after U.S. President Donald Trump called it “obsolete” and threatened to withhold US support unless members ramp up their defence spending.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday he was “confident” that the meeting would “reconfirm the enduring importance of the transatlantic bond” and called on countries to reassure the US of their efforts to increase defence spending.

Trump has repeatedly criticised NATO member states that fail to meet the defence spending target of two per cent of their gross domestic product and has called for fair burden sharing.

According to NATO, only Greece, Britain, Estonia and Poland met the 2-per-cent target aside from the U.S., which bears the largest financial burden in the alliance.

The meeting is also expected to boost NATO’s involvement in the fight against terrorism, in particular against the Islamic State extremist group.

The U.S. and southern European countries have advocated for increased involvement in the fight against terrorism after NATO has been only marginally involved in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Defence ministers are set to decide to establish a coordination centre in the Italian city of Naples where information from countries such as Libya, Syria or Iraq would be analysed.

 

NAN/Nnenna.O