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.