The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is to host a key meeting in London in December, an event which will bring dozens of government and state leaders from allied nations across to the world to the British capital just months after the United Kingdom officially departs the European Union.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the forthcoming summit of members of the military alliance, noting the meeting came in the 70th anniversary year of NATO. He thanked the British government for hosting, recalling the UK was the location of the first NATO headquarters in 1949.
Stoltenberg said: “The United Kingdom was one of the Alliance’s twelve founding members and continues to play a key role in the Alliance, making essential contributions to our shared security.
“The meeting in London will be an opportunity for Allied Heads of State and Government to address the security challenges we face now and in the future, and to ensure that NATO continues to adapt in order to keep its population of almost one billion people safe.”
The next meeting of #NATO Heads of State and Government will take place in London in December. It is the ideal setting to mark 70 years of transatlantic cooperation, as the home of NATO's first HQ back in 1949. Grateful to UK for hosting: https://t.co/boWxVq0YUo
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) February 6, 2019
President Donald Trump’s visit to London for the meeting will likely be his first to the United Kingdom since Brexit, and as a supporter of Britain’s independence he may use the occasion to congratulate the United Kingdom for leaving the European Union.
The meetings have taken place nearly annually since 1989, but have become a larger feature of the news cycle since the election of President Trump, who has vowed to shake up the alliance and stem the decline in defence spending seen across many member states.
This new dynamic was seen dramatically at the 2018 NATO heads of government meeting in Brussels where President Trump was unapologetic in telling the leaders of other member states to meet their treaty obligations to spend two per cent of GDP on defence — a requirement for NATO members that almost none achieve.
The President left the meeting declaring it a success, saying members had committed to paying their own way rather than relying on the United States to underwrite their defence for them. The President said in July: “We’ve accomplished a lot with respect to NATO… everyone has agreed to substantially up their commitment, they are going to up it to levels they never thought of before.”
Calling on Allies to More Than Double Military Spending, Trump Piles on Pressure at NATO Summit https://t.co/vblRVmfYww
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) July 11, 2018
NATO boss Stoltenberg praised Trump for this approach, observing that his sometimes belligerent attitude has seen real positive outcomes. Speaking last month, the Secretary-General said: “He has clearly stated that NATO allies need to invest more. And therefore at the summit in July last year, we agreed to do more to step up — and now we see the results… we see some real money and some real results. And we see that the clear message from President Trump is having an impact.”
“NATO allies have heard the president loud and clear and now NATO allies are stepping up. So this is good news meaning that we actually see more fair burden sharing.”
Despite Promises to Trump, NATO, Germany to Miss Defence Spending Target https://t.co/xGjLmLS90b
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) February 6, 2019
Not all NATO members are working to share that burden more fairly, however. The announcement of the forthcoming alliance meeting came just hours after it was revealed Germany, perhaps the most reluctant nation to accept responsibility for their own defence, was going to miss the spending target by a considerable degree.
While the 2014 NATO meeting saw all member states sign up to the so-called Cardiff Declaration in which they promised to hit the two per cent defence spending target, Germany quickly went back on that and said they would be aiming for one and a half, instead. Now the nation seems not likely to hit even that reduced target as it faces a $28.3 billion funding shortfall to 2023, having raised spending from 1.18 per cent in 2014 to just 1.24 per cent last year.