(CNN) — Eighteen of NATO’s 31 members are expected to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense this year, the treaty organization’s leader said on Wednesday.

“That is another record number and a six-fold increase from 2014 when only three allies met their target,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday ahead of a meeting between the alliance’s defense ministers in Brussels.

Former US President Donald Trump, who is running for reelection in November, brought renewed scrutiny to the issue of defense spending among NATO members last weekend, when he said at a rally he would encourage Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to any NATO member country that doesn’t meet spending guidelines on defense – effectively undercutting the collective defense clause at the heart of the treaty.

Stoltenberg said Monday such comments put European and American soldiers at an increased risk.

“Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the US, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk,” Stoltenberg said.

The NATO chief acknowledged on Wednesday that criticism of members not spending enough was “a valid point … and a message that has been conveyed by successive US administrations, that European Allies and Canada have to spend more, because we haven’t seen fair burden sharing in the alliance.”

To better share that burden, NATO members pledged a decade ago to increase their defense spending to 2% of GDP for each country.

Among the countries to hit the target recently is Germany. The German Defense Ministry said Wednesday that its 2024 budget will see its defense spending meet the 2% threshold for the first time since the early 1990s.

NATO as a whole is expected to reach the 2% threshold for the first time this year.

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