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Italy can’t afford NATO’s cash demands – minister

Defense chief Guido Crosetto has called the bloc’s spending mandate “unrealistic”

Italy has no chance of boosting its military spending to 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2024, as required by NATO, and won’t likely be able to meet the target within the next five years, Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto has told lawmakers in Rome.

Speaking to members of the defense and foreign affairs in both houses of Italy’s parliament on Tuesday, Crosetto said bringing military spending to 2% of GDP will be “impossible” in 2024 and “difficult for 2028 as well.” He added, “We are indeed far from 2%, very far.”

Italy’s defense spending this year will equate to 1.46% of the country’s GDP, according to a NATO estimate. The ratio will reportedly drop to 1.38% next year and to 1.26% in 2025, even as defense spending rises.

“NATO must not set unrealistic financial objectives,” Crosetto said.

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Italy won’t be able to increase its military spending as much as needed unless the defense budget is excluded from EU fiscal constraints, Crosetto has previously warned. “If we do not resolve the current framework of inconsistency between the responsibility to strengthen security and the public finance imposed by the EU, it will be very difficult to reach the 2% minimum threshold envisaged by NATO within a reasonable timeframe,” he said in June.

Members of the Western military bloc agreed at a 2014 summit to target defense spending equivalent to 2% of each country’s GDP by 2024. The bloc agreed in July to make the 2% threshold a minimum requirement, rather than a goal. However, only 11 of the 31 current members are projected to reach the target this year.

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Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni told lawmakers earlier this year that respecting the country’s spending commitments was necessary to protect national sovereignty and credibility.

“Freedom has a price, and if you are not able to defend yourself, someone else will do it for you, but will not do it for free,” she said. “They will impose their interests, even if they differ from yours, and I don’t think this was ever good business for anyone.”

 

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