Minister: NATO allies must boost defense spend to 2.5 percent of GDP

NATO foreign ministers assembled at the Brussels meeting, Wednesday, April 5, 2023.
NATO foreign ministers assembled at the Brussels meeting, Wednesday, April 5, 2023. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

All NATO members who have not already done so should up their defense spending to 2.5 percent o f Gross Domestic Product, outgoing Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) says. Estonia has already reached this proportion and plans to exceed the 3-percent mark soon.

Speaking at a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels Wednesday, one day after NATO member states rose to 31 in number, after the formal accession of Finland, Reinsalu said: "NATO's greatest security threat is Russia, as it disregards all international agreements and principles, including nuclear safety."

"At today's meeting, I called on all allies to increase their defense investment to at least 2 percent of GDP, and to set themselves the goal of reaching 2.5 percent by 2030. Estonia has a more ambitious goal, and we plan to increase our defense spending to 3.2 percent of GDP by next year," the minister went on, via a press release.

Estonia's yearly defense spend is already at 2.5 percent of GDP.

Reinsalu also underscored the need to annul the Founding Act signed in 1997 with Russia, an act which was aimed at advancing dialogue and European security.

"Since February last year, Russia has been ignoring all principles of international law and is waging an inhuman war at the heart of Europe," Reinsalu said. "Why keep the founding act in your drawer if it is no longer valid?"

The forthcoming NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, was also on the table; Reinsalu said the flags of Sweden and Ukraine must join Finland's outside NATO headquarters in the future, which means Ukraine, currently defending itself against Russian aggression, needs a clear accession perspective.

Cooperation with Asian and Pacific partners, outside the NATO portion of the globe, was also discussed, given what the minister called the global nature of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"We are grateful to our partners in Asia and the Pacific and value their contribution to raising the cost of the war for Russia and holding Russia accountable for the crimes committed in Ukraine," the foreign minister went on.

Russia has a vast Pacific coast of over 4,500km in length.

"Estonia takes a broader view and this is why we are committed to NATO's 360-degree approach to help fight terrorism and other security challenges," Reinsalu continued, noting Estonia's recent decision to up its contribution to the US-led operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq as one means of doing this, while simultaneously bolstering defense and security at home.

The minister also called for a reduced dependence on China in economic and other areas, on the part of all NATO member states.

The 31 NATO foreign ministers, together with their Swedish counterpart, are meeting with representatives from Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand while in Brussels, while EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell is also in attendance.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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