German defence minister backs raising NATO spending goal

BRUSSELS, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Germany's defence minister said he was in favour of raising NATO's military spending target, as allies gathered in Brussels on Wednesday for talks on whether defence expenditures of 2% of GDP are sufficient with a war raging in Ukraine.

At their Wales summit in 2014, NATO leaders agreed to move towards spending at least 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defence within a decade.

NATO's decision was a reaction to what it perceived as a severely deteriorated security situation in Europe months after Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea.

Almost ten years after the Wales pledge and one year into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, NATO defence ministers will launch a discussion at their meeting in Brussels on how to adapt the spending target.

A decision is expected at a NATO summit in Lithuania in July.

"I think moving towards the 2% target alone will not be enough, it can only be the basis for further steps," German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said when he arrived for the talks at NATO's headquarters in Brussels.

"We are in the process of coordinating our position on this within the government," he added.

With his remarks, Pistorius echoed calls from NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg who has stressed that the 2% target is not a ceiling but rather a minimum with regard to military spending.

Several allies are pushing for higher military spending, given there is a war raging in Europe, while others such as Germany are far away from meeting even the 2% goal.

In 2022, Germany was expected to reach defence expenditures of almost 1.5%, while France was seen as coming close to meeting the 2%, according to NATO estimates published last June.

According to these figures, Britain and Poland are amongst those countries meeting the target but falling short of the U.S.'s defence spending which is seen at almost 3.5% of GDP.

Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Bart Meijer, Andrew Gray; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Christian Schmollinger

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