NATO: Defense Spending Improving

NATO: Defense Spending Improving

BRUSSELS (AP) -- NATO declared Thursday that alliance defense spending is moving in the "right direction," although one country, the United States, still accounts for almost three-quarters of the alliance's total defense expenditures.

In NATO's annual report released Thursday, the U.S. estimate stood at 72 percent of total spending.

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said that last year, 16 NATO countries not only stopped cuts to defense spending but increased expenditures in real terms. Stoltenberg said "cuts in defense spending by European allies have practically stopped."

President Barack Obama and other NATO leaders agreed in 2014 that their countries should aim to spend 2 percent of Gross Domestic Product on defense. Stoltenberg said while only three countries met that goal that year, five did in 2015 : the United States, Britain, Greece, Poland and Estonia.

Aggregate defense spending by NATO's European members and Canada dropped 0.3 percent last year, just a third of the reduction the previous year, the report said.

"Over the last year, we have started to move in the right direction," Stoltenberg told reporters. "The picture is mixed, but the picture is better."

(KA)