Europe must not bow to the demands made by the US under President Donald Trump with regards to European countries increasing their defence spending, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday.
He argued that development and humanitarian aid that the EU nations have been spending on could also be counted as security.
“It has been the American message for many, many years. I am very much against letting ourselves be pushed into this,” Juncker spoke on the sidelines of the international Munich Security Conference.
If Germany increases its current military spending from 1.22% to 2% of GDP, it would no longer have a budget surplus, he said.
“I don’t like our American friends narrowing down this concept of security to the military,” he said. He instead argued that it would be sensible to consider a “modern stability policy” that is 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,” Juncker said.
He suggested that Europe should bundle their defence spending better and spend the money more wisely and efficiently.
Juncker’s comments came after Trump’s defence secretary James Mattis gave fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations an ultimatum on 15 February saying that the US would “moderate” its commitment to the bloc unless other members boost their military spending.
Mattis echoed Trump’s demand that members of the bloc must increase their defence spending to meet a target of 2% of their economic output. The US is said to be putting up 70% of alliance funds.
According to a NATO assessment from last year, only five out of the 27 EU nations — the UK, US, Greece, Estonia and Poland — are reportedly spending more on military.
Trump had earlier complained that some nations are not contributing their share financially to the NATO.
Earlier this week, global think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies, noted that the UK’s defence spending had slipped to 1.98% of its GDP in the last year, as economic growth surpassed the rate of growth in the defence budget.
NATO defense ministers have decided to beef up the military alliance’s naval presence in the Black Sea in response to an increasingly aggressive Russia.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that NATO will hold more war games and training in the strategically important sea, which borders allies Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania, but also Russia, Ukraine and Georgia.
Russia’s naval fleet based at Sevastopol in Crimea has been a major concern for NATO.
Stoltenberg told reporters after chairing the talks in Brussels that the move “will be measured, it will be defensive, and it will in no way aim at provoking any conflict or escalating tensions.”
Several NATO allies are already providing troops to 3,000-5,000-strong land force in Romania.