BRUGES, Belgium — Europe should reduce its reliance on the U.S. and strengthen the European pillar of NATO instead, Czech President Petr Pavel said Tuesday.
“The dominant role of NATO as a security provider must no longer mean that Europe neglects its defense obligations,” said Pavel, speaking at the opening ceremony of the new academic year at the College of Europe in Bruges. “Reducing the reliance on the U.S. and developing European strategic enablers is to be seen as our contribution to our transatlantic partnership.
“Very likely, we will have to go beyond the 2 percent spending on defense,” he noted.
NATO allies agreed at the Vilnius summit in July that the target, in the words of Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, should be treated as a floor instead of a ceiling.
“We affirm that in many cases, expenditure beyond 2 percent of GDP will be needed,” the joint communiqué stated.
Only about a third of the 31-strong alliance — including many Eastern allies — is meeting or close to meeting the target.
In his speech, Pavel also supported enlargement, which “should not be postponed until some hypothetical point in the future, where the candidates are perfectly aligned with us,” and emphasized Western countries must counter the narrative of Russia in Africa.
Pavel, who is a former general and senior NATO leader, became Czech president in early 2023.
Separately, Stoltenberg on Tuesday held a call with the leaders of the G7 group, including U.S. President Joe Biden, as well as Poland and Romania, amid increasing concerns from Europe over the U.S. Congress’ decision to freeze aid funding for Ukraine.
Stoltenberg stressed the importance of “continued support to Ukraine” as the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace, according to NATO.
His message is also seen as aimed at Poland, where campaigns for an upcoming election saw the government withhold weapons supply to Ukraine.