UK wants NATO defense target upped to 2.5 percent

LONDON — NATO should increase its defense spending target for member countries to 2.5 percent of GDP, U.K. Defense Secretary Grant Shapps declared.

“We’re now saying we think that should be 2.5 percent,” Shapps told Sky News. “We think in a more dangerous world that would make sense.”

NATO countries are currently expected to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense, with 18 members currently on track to do so. Germany hit that target for the first time this year.

But former U.S. president and current candidate Donald Trump has suggested he wouldn’t protect countries failing to hit that target if they’re attacked, triggering a fierce debate in Europe about defense spend.

Shapps argued it would make a “real difference” if other NATO members met the U.K.’s proposed new target.

“I will be arguing that, and I know that the prime minister feels strongly about it, when we go to the NATO 75th anniversary summit which is in Washington, D.C,” the U.K. defense secretary said.

Shapps’ comments come a day after U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced an extra £75 billion of defense spending for his own country over the next six years and said he wanted Britain’s defense industry on a “war footing.” It’s a move the U.K. says will take its defense budget to an equivalent of 2.5 percent of GDP by the end of the decade.

Speaking Wednesday as his boss Sunak visits Germany, Shapps said he did not see the need to boost defense spending further, as some Conservative backbenchers are already pushing.

“If somebody gave me 3 percent tomorrow, I wouldn’t be able to spend that, at least not domestically,” Shapps told Times Radio. “So I would be forced to simply go around the world and buy kit from other people.”

The government has promised that the spending increase will be part-funded by cutting 72,000 civil service jobs, a decision Shapps said was “very reasonable.”