US urges Luxembourg to up its game on defence
The United States' ambassador to Luxembourg will work with the the country to bolster its defence spending, he said on Thursday, less than a week after the Grand Duchy's Defence Minister said it will not meet its NATO spending targets.
Visiting the Warehouse Service Agency in Sanem on Thursday, which serves the US Air Force and is run by Luxembourg, US Ambassador Tom Barrett, a lifelong Democrat, said the centre is "an important step towards meeting the formal commitment [of] all NATO members, including the Grand Duchy, [...] to meet the 2% defence spending guideline."
It comes after Luxembourg's Defence Minister François Bausch said earlier this week it does not make sense for the country to meet this target.
Instead, Luxembourg will continue to increase its defence spending to reach 0.72% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2024, far below the 2% that NATO leaders agreed on in Wales in 2014. Luxembourg was penalised for its its "flourishing economy" and strong growth over the last few years, Bausch said.
There is "not a huge desire among the public or elected officials to spend a lot on defence," Barrett said. Increasing the size of the army is difficult given Luxembourg's size, Barrett said, adding he understood that Luxembourg was looking at alternative ways to increase its spending.
"[Vladimir] Putin is challenging the US, NATO and EU", Barrett said, who referred to the events of the last month since Russia invaded Ukraine as an "inflection point" for the alliance. "We are being tested" and the alliance has to "up its game", he said.
"The fundamental message is the same, but the approach is more collaborative", Craig Ferguson, a US Embassy spokesperson, told the Luxembourg Times in reference to the previous administration under President Donald Trump who was known to use more direct and often threatening language towards allies.
Back in the US, there is bipartisan interest for Luxembourg to increase its spending, Barrett said. Luxembourg continues to rank at the bottom of the table when it comes to spending on defence, relative to the size of the economy.
Other NATO members, such as Germany and Belgium, have now announced increased defence spending, with the former allocating an extra €100 billion to defence in its budget and saying it would consistently meet the 2% threshold over the next few years.