Brussels, Mar 19 (efe-epa).- The crisis triggered by the coronavirus demonstrates the need for increased spending on defence, NATO’s secretary general said Thursday.
Delivering the organisation’s Annual Report at a virtual press conference as part of efforts to promote social distancing, Jens Stoltenberg paid tribute to the health workers on the frontlines of the crisis and expressed his condolences to those who had lost loved ones to the COVID-19 disease.
“From the beginning, NATO has been implementing robust measures to limit the spread of the virus, to reduce the risk to our soldiers and civilians and the communities they serve, and to ensure that our essential work continues to maintain deterrents and defence for our nations,” Stoltenberg said.
He insisted that despite some exercises and events being cancelled due to the outbreak, “NATO’s ability to conduct operations has not been undermined. Our forces remain ready and our work goes on.”
He urged countries to continue the trend seen in 2019 of boosting defence investment, despite the damaging economic shock the crisis is expected to cause.
Stoltengerg said the unprecedented uncertainty generated by the pandemic, which has killed over 9,300 people worldwide, highlighted the importance of NATO’s work and its role.
“We live in an uncertain world. The coronavirus crisis has made clear that many of the challenges we face are too great for any one nation or organ to face alone,” he said. “It is more important than ever that we stand together, work together and support each other.”
Stoltenberg pointed out that when NATO allies chose to increase defence spending prior to the outbreak, “they did so because we live in an uncertain and unpredictable world. This has not changed,” he said.
The 2019 Alliance report, which includes Defense spending estimates for this year, estimates that European allies and Canada invested 1.57 percent of their GDP in military spending in 2019, still well short of the proposed target of 2% for 2024.
According to the Alliance’s calculations, only nine countries out of 29 have already met the 2% target in 2019: the United States, the United Kingdom, Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Greece, Estonia and Bulgaria.
The US, which in recent years has been pressing Europe and Canada to increase their military spending, invested 3.42 percent of its GDP in 2019.