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Poland pushes for making NATO members spend more

President Andrzej Duda has argued that the Western military bloc should raise its spending guideline to at least 3% of GDP

Polish President Andrzej Duda has revealed a major goal for his visit this week to Washington: persuading US leaders to back a higher spending requirement for NATO members to help intimidate Russia.

Speaking on Monday at a meeting of Poland’s National Security Council, Duda argued that NATO member states should be forced to spend at least 3% of their GDP on defense – up from a current guideline of 2%. He said he will make that case to the US president when he and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk meet with Joe Biden on Tuesday.

“There must be a clear and bold response to Russian aggression,” Duda said. “That response will be to increase the military potential of the North Atlantic alliance.” He added that beyond raising the spending minimum for member nations, NATO should make the threshold more compulsory, at a level “below which it is absolutely not recommended to go.”

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Duda made his comments as he and Tusk prepared to make a US visit that was timed to mark the 25th anniversary of Poland’s accession to NATO. “If we claim we strengthen our defenses so that no one dares to attack NATO, then we must add one thing: No one will dare to attack countries who are able to defend themselves, who are ready, and who will rise to the defense of their borders.”

Warsaw plans to double the size of its military by 2035 in response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The country is ramping up its defense spending this year to more than 4% of its GDP, or 137 billion zloty ($35 billion), on concern over what Duda has called “the emerging danger beyond our eastern border.”

NATO’s spending guidelines have been controversial in recent years because most members have failed to meet the 2% minimum. As recently as 2014, only three NATO countries met the target. Former US President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized Washington’s NATO allies for failing to spend adequately on their own defenses. He even suggested at a presidential campaign rally last month that the US shouldn’t protect NATO members that skimp on their defense budgets. 

READ MORE: Polish foreign minister backs sending NATO troops to Ukraine

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general, has claimed that 18 members of the 32-nation alliance are on track this year to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense. Duda said he plans to discuss his proposal for a 3% spending minimum with Stoltenberg and all of Poland’s allies.

The Polish president also bragged that his country’s military had fought alongside the US and other NATO partners in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locales – “wherever it was necessary to defend the free world.” He added, “Today we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies in support of Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression, but we also act responsibly on our own.”

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