(Bloomberg) -- Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas warned that certain members of the NATO alliance are not taking their defense targets seriously enough, urging them to spend more to ward off any potential threats.
Speaking during a visit to Singapore, Kallas said that she was “very sad” some member nations think they can postpone an investment pledge to spend a minimum 2% of gross domestic product on defense by next year. She supports lifting the floor to 2.5% of GDP to achieve a security posture that wouldn’t only serve as an appropriate deterrence, but also demonstrate NATO’s commitment to the US ahead of divisive presidential election in 2024.
“Not all countries take this seriously enough,” she said during an interview on the sidelines of a tech conference in the city-state. “It is very important for the European defense still to show to the Americans that we are doing everything because who knows what happens after the presidential elections.”
She joins a chorus of voices in Europe increasingly concerned over the need to address defense supply shortages as they continue to fuel the Ukrainian side of a war that is showing no signs of easing. Both Moscow and Kyiv are reporting widespread fighting along the front lines as anticipation mounts for Kyiv’s long-planned counteroffensive.
Ukraine on Tuesday accused Russian forces of blowing up a giant dam in the south, unleashing a torrent of floodwater, threatening residents and complicating the battle.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview in Oslo this month that allies need to sign more contracts with defense companies to boost production given their ammunition stocks are running dry. The alliance may agree as soon as this summer to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense, a slight shift from a 10-year-old pledge to “move toward the 2% guideline.”
Kallas, as the 45-year-old leader of the Baltic nation of 1.3 million, has been among the EU’s most strident critics of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Estonia, which shares a border with Russia, is one of the biggest per-capita suppliers of weapons to Kyiv. A lawyer by profession, the daughter of the country’s former premier and European Commissioner Siim Kallas, is seen as a potential candidate to become secretary-general of NATO.
The Estonian prime minister, however, told the BBC in May that it was unlikely she would be offered the job because she is from the alliance’s eastern flank.
Wrapping up her first trip to Asia since taking office in 2021, Kallas lamented on Tuesday a lack of support as some countries in the region have remained neutral since the war broke out. She also said she has been battling public perceptions that NATO is ultimately responsible.
“What we hear around here is that NATO is at fault and I’m trying to explain that NATO is a defense alliance where countries actually applied,” she said. “The political support definitely is stronger in some parts of the world than in others, and therefore I think we need to do a lot of work to convince the people here as well what is at stake.”
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