Polish Leader to Press for Surge in NATO Spending to Counter Russia

Polish Leader to Press for Surge in NATO Spending to Counter Russia

The president of Poland plans to use a White House meeting with President Biden on Tuesday to propose that most NATO countries increase their military spending by at least half to meet what he sees as the growing threat of Russian aggression against Europe and the United States.

The Polish president, Andrzej Duda, said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine had made clear that NATO must take more seriously the possibility that Moscow would move against one or more members of the alliance. To prepare for that, he said, each NATO country should spend at least 3 percent of its own economy on military needs, up from a current goal of 2 percent.

“A return to the status quo ante is not possible,” Mr. Duda wrote in The Washington Post before the meeting at the White House on Tuesday. “Russia’s imperialistic ambitions and aggressive revisionism are pushing Moscow toward a direct confrontation with NATO, with the West and, ultimately, with the whole free world.” He noted that Russia had “switched its economy to war mode,” devoting nearly 30 percent of its budget to arms. “Vladimir Putin’s regime poses the biggest threat to global peace since the end of the Cold War.”

The proposal to increase NATO military spending may not be adopted anytime soon by many allies that have yet to meet even the 2 percent target. But it reflects the tension within the alliance between its easternmost members, which feel most acutely vulnerable to Russian revanchism, and westernmost members, which are less alarmed and more eager to find a diplomatic resolution to the Ukraine war.

Mr. Biden will meet with Mr. Duda and Prime Minister Donald Tusk of Poland to mark the 25th anniversary of the accession to NATO of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic while highlighting the need to do more to help Ukraine fend off Russian invaders. Legislation to provide an additional $60 billion in security aid to Ukraine has been blocked for now in Congress despite strong bipartisan support.

The president presumably will use the meeting to reinforce his commitment to NATO at a time when his rival in the fall election, former President Donald J. Trump, has threatened to rupture the alliance. Mr. Trump recently said that while president he told a NATO leader that not only would he not come to the defense of allies that failed to spend enough, but he would “encourage” Russia to attack them.

“A former president actually said that, bowing down to a Russian leader,” Mr. Biden said in his State of the Union address last week. “I think it’s outrageous, it’s dangerous and it’s unacceptable.”

The last several presidents have pushed NATO to do more for its own defense, and alliance leaders in 2014 agreed to the 2 percent goal, but it was a nonbinding aspiration to meet by 2024. Mr. Trump was more bellicose than his predecessors in demanding that allies raise their military spending and spoke of it as if they owed the money to the United States, which was not true.

Under Mr. Trump, the number of NATO members meeting the 2 percent goal increased from six to nine. Under Mr. Biden, it has doubled to 18, reflecting rising fear of Russia since its 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a non-NATO state. Two additional members have just joined NATO, Finland and Sweden, raising the total members to 32.

Poland, which already spends nearly 4 percent of its economy on its military, sits atop the list and therefore can afford to push others to raise their spending without any additional commitments on its part. The United States follows at 3.5 percent, and most of the other top spenders are in Eastern Europe, closer to Russia. Collectively, the European allies are spending 2 percent of their combined gross domestic product this year, or $380 billion.

The visit by Polish leaders on Tuesday will be the first since a landmark election in October, when opposition parties defeated the ruling Law and Justice party, a right-wing faction that drew concern across Europe and the United States in recent years as it consolidated power over major institutions like the judiciary, the news media, the central bank and large state-controlled corporations.

While Mr. Duda was an ally of Law and Justice and curried favor with Mr. Trump when he was in office, Mr. Tusk is a veteran centrist widely respected in European capitals and Washington. He was installed in December as the new prime minister, returning to the post that he occupied from 2007 to 2014, when he often worked with Mr. Biden, who was then the vice president.