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NATO affirms 3% rise in outlays

The United States extracted from its NATO allies a confirmation May 12 of the 3 percent target for annual increases in military budgets, senior US defense officials have indicated.

In return, Monitor correspondent Elizabeth Pond reports, the Europeans extracted from the Americans a linking of the increases with an evaluation of how the increases are actually spent.

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These results emerged on the first day of the two-day NATO defense ministers' spring meeting here. Thirteen of NATO's 15 member nations are taking part in the meetings of the defense planning committee.

The renewed European pledge of 3 percent military increases in real terms, despite tight budgets and economic recession, is something of a return gesture for a US pledge at the NATO foreign ministers' meeting last week in Rome. This was a promise to resume talks with Moscow next fall on limiting European nuclear weapons.

In other developments on the defense planning committee's first day, the US briefed its allies on the Soviet conventional threat. This step was unusual: Intelligence on conventional -- as distinct from nuclear -- Soviet-Warsaw Pact capabilities is normally provided by the joint NATO military committee. But it was apparently made to help European governments acquaint their publics with the increased Soviet threat over the past decade.

The Soviet military buildup of the past decade, US Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger said, raises the concern "that the current and prospective leaders of the Soviet Union may be impelled by lack of success in other fields to turn increasingly to the one field in which they have both confidence and capability: stark military power and military threats."

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