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NATO members warned they are playing 'Russian roulette' as they all make one big mistake

NATO countries not spending two per cent of GDP on defence are playing Russian roulette with the West’s future, Grant Shapps has warned.

Britain’s Defence Secretary repeated his warning that allies must accept the West is now in a pre-war world. Only 11 of NATO’s 32 members met the military alliance’s two per cent target last year.

France and Germany were among the countries which spent less on defence, though Paris and Berlin recently announced they will meet the target this year. Other members have yet to commit.

Mr Shapps, writing in the Telegraph, said: “We must look beyond that target to shore up our defences. Yet some nations are still failing to meet even the two percent. That cannot continue. We can’t afford to play Russian roulette with our future.”

On NATO’s 75th anniversary, he said: “Paying tribute to NATO’s past is not enough. Today we must give urgent thought once again to the alliance’s future. We have moved from a post-war to a pre-war world.”

The 11 countries which met the two percent target last year were the UK, US, Denmark, Slovakia, Hungary, Latvia, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia, Greece and Poland.

The United States spent the second most on defence (3.2 percent of GDP) much more than the UK as a proportion of the economy. Poland, which shares a border with Ukraine, spent the most – 3.9 percent.

Mr Shapps’ comments come as British Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron said the West needs to “win the argument for NATO again” as Europe faces the same situation it did in 1938.

Lord Cameron likened the current situation with Russia to that which Britain and France faced at the 1938 Munich conference with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

He said: “What we face today is as simple as then. We have a tyrant in Europe who is trying to redraw borders by force and there are two choices. You can appease that approach or you can confront that approach.”

In his speech at an event in Brussels hosted by the Royal United Services Institute, Lord Cameron said NATO needed to demonstrate its “relevance” to younger people who had not grown up with the threat of the Cold War.

He said: “I think we have to win the argument for NATO all over again with a new generation, a generation that can see, yes, look at the threat that Ukraine has faced from Russia, but I think we need to go back to a more foundational argument, which is this.

“Fundamentally, the greatness of NATO is it allows countries to choose their own future.”

Tough messages to Britain’s NATO allies come as the Conservative Party debates how high to raise UK defence spending. They also follow Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, sparking outrage in February. The former US president said he would encourage Russia to attack NATO members not meeting the spending target.

Currently, about 2.3 percent of Britain’s GDP is spent on defence, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak looking to raise it to 2.5 percent.

Meanwhile, NATO is debating a plan to provide more predictable military support to Ukraine in the coming years as better armed Russian troops assert control on the battlefield.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels: “We strongly believe that support to Ukraine should be less dependent on short-term, voluntary offers and more dependent on long-term NATO commitments.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Ukraine lowered the military conscription age from 27 to 25 to help replenish its depleted ranks after more than two years of war. A shortage of infantry combined with a severe ammunition shortfall has helped hand Russian troops the initiative.

Mr Stoltenberg said: “The reason why we do this is the situation on the battlefield in Ukraine. It is serious. We see how Russia is pushing and we see how they try to win this war by just waiting us out.”

The plan is to have NATO coordinate the work of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group, a forum of about 50 countries which has regularly gathered during the war to drum up weapons and ammunition for Ukraine rather than the US European Command.

While the move would not see NATO directly providing weapons to Ukraine it would mark a new phase in its involvement in the war.

NATO is desperate to do more for Ukraine, but its members are not ready to offer the country the ultimate security guarantee of membership. Nor do they want to be dragged into a wider war with a nuclear-armed military power like Russia.

Under the new plan, which is expected to be endorsed by US President Joe Biden and his counterparts at their next summit in Washington DC in July, NATO would coordinate the military side of Ukraine support efforts by assessing Ukraine’s needs, collecting pledges and running meetings.

The Financial Times newspaper reported the multi-year plan could involve up to £79billion ($100bn), but Mr Stoltenberg declined to provide details.


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