Stick to defence spending pledge, NATO chief tells Germany

Germany must honour its own promises on defence spending, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg insisted Monday, as the alliance prepares to mark its 70th anniversary amid unprecedented tensions with Washington.

NATO foreign ministers meet in the US capital this week for a low-key celebration of the alliance's 1949 founding treaty with US complaints over weak European military spending firmly on the agenda.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly accused NATO allies -- and economic powerhouse Germany in particular -- of freeloading on America's military muscle and reportedly threatened to "go it alone" if Europe does not step up.

All NATO allies agreed to move towards spending two per cent of GDP on defence by 2024, but last month Berlin announced that its own figure was set to fall in the coming years, from 1.37 percent in 2020 to just 1.25 per cent in 2023.

The news infuriated Washington, and Stoltenberg said Berlin must live up to commitments it had signed up to at a summit in 2014.

"I expect Germany to make good on the pledge Germany made together with all other NATO allies," Stoltenberg told reporters.

"I expect them to meet spending commitments, and they have submitted to NATO a national plan where they outline how Germany will increase defence spending in real terms by 80 per cent over a decade."

Stoltenberg said it was also essential for Germany to spend enough on defence to hit its "capability targets" -- benchmarks set by NATO for each ally to ensure the alliance has enough troops and equipment to deal with potential threats.

In 2018 only seven of NATO's 29 member states hit the two per cent target.

Stoltenberg, whose mandate as secretary general was extended by two years to 2022 last week, insists that away from Trump's fiery rhetoric, the US is fully committed to NATO, stepping up its investment of troops and resources in Europe.

And in a sign of NATO's enthusiasm to keep the US on board, Stoltenberg reiterated the alliance's plans to invest more than USD 260 million (232 million euros) in a facility in Poland to support US forces.

The storage and maintenance facility will allow equipment to be "pre-positioned" as part of NATO's efforts to step up its ability to counter the threat posed by Russia.