Norway renewed its financial commitment to NATO after U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis met Saturday with Norwegian officials in Oslo.
Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen said “Norway is committed to the two percent goal in NATO,” and added without offering specifics, “We will continue to increase defense spending substantially in the coming years.” Currently the oil-rich country spends about 1.6-percent of its GDP on defense.
NATO agreed in 2014 that each member nation would raise military spending to 2-percent of their gross domestic product by 2024. But diplomats say only two-thirds of the 29-nation alliance, excluding the U.S., have a realistic plan to reach the 2-percent level in 2024. The U.S. spent 3.57-percent of its GDP on defense in 2017.
Norway’s recommitment comes after U.S. President Donald Trump again demanded at a two-day NATO summit this week in Brussels that member nations increase their defense spending. Trump claimed to have won assurances from NATO leaders during intense talks.
Norway, which Trump has described as NATO’s “eyes and ears” in northern Europe, is considered one of America’s most valuable allies. In addition to partnering with U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the Middle East, Norway helps gather intelligence on Russia’s Maritime military activities.
While Trump has criticized Norway, which shares a border with Russia, for not having a plan to boost defense spending, Mattis has praised the Scandinavian country.
After talks Saturday with Bakke-Jensen and Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide, Mattis said Norway’s commitment to the 2-percent goal was encouraging.
“Norway’s leadership in the Nordic region and especially up in the Arctic where you serve as NATO’s sentinel … you are definitely contributing beyond your weight class,” he said.
In addition to hosting one of NATO’s largest exercises in decades this fall, Norway will host up to 700 U.S. marines beginning next year, more than double the number who are presently stationed there.
Russia’s embassy in Oslo said the additional marines “makes Norway less predictable and could cause growing tensions, trigger an arms race and destabilizing the situation in northern Europe.” The embassy also said,” “We see it as clearly unfriendly, and it will not remain free of consequence.”
Trump is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday in Helsinki.