NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a news conference ahead of a NATO Defence Ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on February 14.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a news conference ahead of a NATO Defence Ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on February 14.

NATO's European and Canadian members increased defence spending by 3.8 percent last year, amounting to around $10 billion more than in 2015, the bloc's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said as he briefed the media on the agenda of the NATO Defence Ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday.

Stressing the importance of increasing defence spending as a top priority amid security challenges, Stoltenberg said the top priority for the transatlantic alliance is to increase defence spending, as demanded by US President Donald Trump.

"We will stress the importance of fair burden-sharing and higher defence spending," Stoltenberg said.

He added that Europe's defence spending will be one of the main topics at a NATO summit in May, where Trump will be in attendance.

Trump said this month that NATO members must make "their full and proper financial contributions," although last year's rise is a broader response to Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and concerns about terror attacks.

Latvia, Lithuania and Romania are moving towards the NATO goal of spending at least 2 percent of their economic output on defence, and Germany is also increasing spending, he said.

In 2015, only Britain, Poland, Greece and Estonia met the 2 percent NATO spending goal.

About the budget constraints in Italy, Stoltenberg said, "Some allies are still really struggling."

On Wednesday and Thursday, ministers will address the Alliance's response to security concerns, including the fight against terrorism and threats stemming from the Middle East and North Africa.

Later this week, Stoltenberg will also meet Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the Munich Security Conference.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies