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Slovakia to boost defense spending faster than planned: PM

Slovakia's Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini attends a debate on the future of Europe, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler/File Photo

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovakia will boost defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2022, achieving the NATO goal two years faster than planned, Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini said.

“After raising defense spending to 1.73 percent of GDP this year we expect to reach the 2.0 percent level as early as 2022, compared with the originally planned 2024,” Pellegrini told a foreign policy conference on Monday.

Slovakia, a member of the U.S.-led military alliance since 2004, will spend about 6.5 billion euros ($7.35 billion) by 2030 to modernize its armed forces and reduce its reliance on Russian equipment dating from its Communist past.

It signed a $1.9 billion deal last year to buy 14 U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to replace its aging Russian-made MiG-29s.

U.S. President Donald Trump has pressed other NATO nations to lift their defense spending beyond the NATO-prescribed 2 percent level.

Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Mark Heinrich