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Pope says increased defense spending after Ukraine is ‘madness’

FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis delivers weekly general audience at the Vatican
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis delivers the weekly general audience in the Paul VI Hall on March 23, 2022. in the Vatican. REUTERS/Yara Nardi/File Photo

March 24, 2022

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Thursday slammed Western nations’ increased defense spending in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “madness” and said a new way must be found to balance the world power.

Speaking to a coalition of women’s groups, the pope said the conflict in Ukraine was a product “of the old logic of power that still governs so-called geopolitics.”

The real answer isn’t more guns and more sanctions, he said.

“I was embarrassed to read that a group of states have committed to spending 2% of GDP on arms acquisitions in response to what is happening now. Madness,” said Francis.

NATO has a target of spending 2% of a member country’s gross domestic product (GDP) on defense. Many have fallen short in recent years, much to the chagrin of the United States.

But Germany announced last month that it would sharply increase its defense spending to more than 2% of its GDP in a policy shift prompted by the Russian invasion.

France, one of Europe’s largest military powers, has said it will meet the United States’ 2% NATO spending target this year. Other European countries have also decided to increase spending to varying degrees. Italy is in the midst of a heated political debate over the proposed increases.

Francis said what was needed was “a different way of governing the globalized world, not by showing your teeth as is being done now, but a different way of conducting international relations”.

He made no suggestions as to how this might be done.

Since the beginning of the war, the pope has implicitly criticized Moscow, condemned what he called “unjustified aggression” and denounced “atrocities,” but he has not mentioned Russia by name.

(Additional reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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Bobby Allyn

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