Europe must spend more on defence to keep US committed to Nato, says Sunak

European nations must follow Britain in ramping up defence spending to guarantee the US’s continued commitment to Nato, Rishi Sunak has warned.

The Prime Minister said Europe must bolster its armed forces against the backdrop of Donald Trump making a second run for the White House.

Speaking at a press conference with Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, he said US demands for Europe to contribute more were “reasonable”.

Mr Trump claimed in February that he would let Russia do “whatever the hell they want” to Nato members who fail to hit the Alliance’s spending target of 2 per cent of GDP.

While many presidents have called for Europe to spend more, he has gone further by putting US commitment to the defence of the continent in doubt.

Mr Sunak said European nations can no longer ask the US to bankroll the continent’s security if they are not “prepared to make sacrifices” themselves.

“US presidents have always called for more European defence spending. That’s not new and I think that is entirely reasonable,” he said. “We cannot expect Americans to pay any price, to take any burden, if we in Europe are not ourselves prepared to make those sacrifices and make those investments.

“That’s exactly what we are doing. But it’s important that we and Europe demonstrate that we are doing that in order to keep the US committed to Nato.”

Rishi Sunak and Olaf Scholz, pictured in Berlin
Rishi Sunak and Olaf Scholz, pictured in Berlin on Wednesday, have defended Nato and are confident it will survive in the event of a Donald Trump presidency - Thomas Trutsche/DPA/Cover Images

Mr Sunak made the remarks at the end of a two-day trip to Poland and Germany during which he announced a major boost to UK defence spending.

He pledged that Britain will increase the military budget to 2.5 per cent of GDP by the end of the decade, meaning it will hit £87 billion a year in 2030-31.

He has urged other European countries to adopt the “new benchmark” and will lobby them during a Nato summit in Washington in July.

The current Nato spending target is two per cent but only 11 nations achieved that last year, with both Germany and France falling short.

Mr Scholz, who has pledged to increase Berlin’s defence budget, said he was “confident” that Nato would survive in the event of a Trump presidency.

“It’s Nato that we want to advance in order to promote democracy, the rule of law and the free market economy,” he said. “We want to defend these values, and I’m confident that over the many years that are ahead that won’t change.

“There will be new presidents coming and going in eight years time or in 12 years time, so I think we need to trust in this long-term partnership.”

He also insisted Germany and other nations need to spend more on defence “so that we can collectively defend our Nato territory”, adding; “Others also depend on our power, others who expect us to defend their territory in case of an attack we can and we will.”

His remarks will be seen as a reference to Russian sabre-rattling at the borders of Nato countries including the Baltic states and Finland.

But he rejected fresh calls to supply Taurus long-range missiles to Ukraine as he urged other EU nations to provide Kyiv with Patriot air defence systems. He defended Germany as the largest European supplier of aid to Ukraine and said other EU nations should “look at their stocks” and see if they can “spare” Patriot systems.

It came as Britain was readying to supply Ukraine with advanced Paveway IV laser-guided bombs as part of its latest military aid package. The bombs could either be fitted to the US-made F-16 fighter jets that are set to arrive in months, or its older soviet-era planes.