President Barack Obama again urged European members of the NATO defense alliance to spend more on their military forces so that NATO can be a bulwark against potential Russian aggression in Ukraine or the Baltic states.
“When it comes to defense spending, all of us have to make sure that our defense forces are efficient, effective -– (and) that for every dollar or lira that we’re spending that we’re getting the most defense for our money,” Obama said at a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
He added that the United States had reduced its defense spending in recent years, but he added that “there is a certain irreducible commitment that countries have to make if they’re serious about NATO and the defense alliance.”
Italy and the United States were among the founding NATO members in 1949 and the Baltic states, which border Russia, and Poland are now members.
He said that the United States has the world’s largest military and that while “we don’t expect every country to duplicate exactly what we do.” But “we can’t have a situation in which the United States is consistently spending over three percent of our GDP (Gross Domestic Product) on defense – much of that focused on Europe, (and) potentially more, if we end up having ongoing crises within Europe – and Europe is spending, let’s say, one percent. The gap becomes too large…. We need to make sure that everybody is doing their fair share,” he said.
From 2009 to 2013 the United States spent 4.2 percent of its GDP on its military while Italy spent only 1.7 percent according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and the World Bank.
First published March 27 2014, 9:58 AM
Tom Curry is a National Affairs writer for NBCNews.com. He began reporting on politics and public policy for NBCNews.com in June 1996, when the site was msnbc.com.
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Before joining msnbc.com, Curry worked as a reporter/researcher for Time magazine where he reported on politics, business, social trends, and golf.
Curry reports to Politics Editor Vaughn Ververs.
He was awarded a Freedom Forum Foundation Journalism Fellowship in Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii in 1993 and a Hoover Institution Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University in 2011.
He lives in Washington D.C.