By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Thursday criticised increased defence spending by Western nations following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “madness” and said a new way must be found to balance 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 dominates so-called geopolitics”.
The real response was not more weapons and more sanctions, he said.
“I was embarrassed when I read that a group of states have committed to spending two percent…of GDP in acquiring weapons as a response to what is happening now. Madness,” Francis said.
NATO has a target of 2% of a member state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to spend on defence. Many have fallen short in the past several years, to the annoyance of the United States.
But Germany announced last month it would sharply increase its defence spending to more than 2% of its GDP in a policy shift prompted by the Russian invasion.
France, one of Europe’s biggest military powers, has said it will reach NATO’s 2% spending goal sought by the United States this year. Other European countries have also decided to raise spending by various degrees. Italy is in the midst of a heated political debate over proposed increases.
Francis said that what was needed was “a different way of governing the globalised world, not by showing your teeth, as is done now, but a different way to frame international relations.”
He did not make any suggestions as to how that might be done.
Since the war began the pope has implicitly criticised Moscow, condemning what he has called an “unjustified aggression” and denouncing “atrocities,” but he has not mentioned Russia by name.
(Additional reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Angus MacSwan)