Two percent target of NATO: new endurance test for Stoltenberg

Two percent target of NATO: new endurance test for Stoltenberg

Jens Stoltenberg

It is unclear whether the NATO Secretary General will stay in office much longer.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin Jens Stoltenberg’s reputation for being “reliable” and “essential” precedes him. He actually wanted to have left the world stage long ago. The Nato-Secretary-General moved back to his native Norway last year, where he was set to become central bank governor. A return to his professional roots, after all he once studied economics in Oslo and later lectured at the university there.

But then the war broke out in the Ukraine out. Since then, Stoltenberg has had to deal with the “biggest security crisis in a generation,” as he himself wrote on Twitter.

Another endurance test for the former Norwegian prime minister is due in July. Some of the Allies want to tighten common targets for defense spending. “Some allies are determined to make the current target of two percent a minimum,” he told the German Press Agency. the Nato-Members have so far resolved to spend two percent of annual economic output on defense. As chairman of the North Atlantic Council, he will now lead the negotiations on the subject.

After more than eight years at the head of the defense alliance, Stoltenberg can negotiate and find compromises among the 30 governments. In this way he at least managed to involve the NATO long-time moaner Donald Trump and to keep him from the threatened withdrawal from NATO.

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Stoltenberg is not considered a great speaker, but the longer the war in Ukraine drags on, the clearer it becomes in the debate. In a conversation with the British radio station BBC 4 over the weekend, he called for an increase in weapons production in the western military alliance. The maintenance of weapons systems that have already been delivered to Ukraine is at least as important as the debate about other weapons.

Stoltenberg’s demands are unlikely to go down well in Berlin

Warnings, which were also given in a conversation in early December 2022 with the Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SDP) may have played a role in the Chancellery. The two Social Democrats were friendly to each other in front of the press. But Scholz shouldn’t like to hear the recent debate about tightening the targets for defense spending.

Stoltenberg and Scholz

During a visit by the NATO Secretary General to Berlin, the two social democrats treated each other in a friendly manner.

(Photo: IMAGO/Christian Spicker)

In particular, she Germany facing great challenges. Because despite the “turn of the era” and armed forces-Special funds of 100 billion euros, the federal government is far from achieving the two percent target in the long term.

According to a study by the German Economic Institute (IW), Germany will miss the NATO target this year and from 2026 onwards. According to the study, it is “a long way off and procurements that are necessary in the short term are not making any progress”.

There are various reasons for this: Germany is starting from a low level of expenditure. In 2021, Germany spent only 1.49 percent. With the new special fund, Scholz finally wants to keep the international commitments. But as of today, he will hardly be able to do that. According to IW, as early as 2026 there will again be a gap of 9.7 billion euros in relation to the two percent target. It will be even more serious after the end of the special fund: In 2027, Germany will fall short of the budget for the two percent target by 39 billion euros.

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Stoltenberg, who is experienced in diplomacy, did not say which NATO countries are now demanding a significantly more ambitious goal. According to diplomats, eastern alliance states such as Poland and Lithuania as well as Great Britain have recently spoken out in favor of agreeing on stricter guidelines in view of Russia’s war against Ukraine. He also did not want to say whether he personally supports the demands for a minimum amount.

However, he made it clear that he considers a further increase in defense spending to be indispensable. “NATO is there to ensure that a conflict like the one in Ukraine does not escalate beyond Ukraine. For that we need credible deterrence and defense and therefore we need to invest more in our security.”

The next regular NATO summit is scheduled for July 11 and 12 in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius. Then there should be an agreement. A few months later, the extension of Stoltenberg’s term of office ends. It is completely open whether he will continue.

More: Stoltenberg calls for “a strong Bundeswehr” – and more ammunition for the Ukraine

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