PARIS/BRUSSELS/MADRID - NATO has asked members for more money to finance a salary hike for staff, a request some alliance nations deem disproportionate given the COVID-19 hit to their economies and are refusing, three European diplomats said. The proposed rise of about 2.2% would be the biggest in four years and comes as the Western military alliance looks to seal its budget for 2021 and European economies face their biggest contraction since the Second World War. The moves adds to tensions within the 30 country alliance that stem from President Donald Trump accusing European allies of taking U.S. protection for granted and its image worsening after French President Emmanuel Macron said last year the organisation was experiencing "brain death". "There's an economic crisis because of the pandemic and they are asking for cash for an institution where the lowest salaries are 4,000 euros. It's a joke," said one European diplomat aware of the matter. "Asking states to increase contributions to pay for salaries during COVID-19 is irresponsible." Governments across Europe will be looking to rein in costs to help finance COVID-19 recovery packages, such as Britain saying it will pause public sector pay rises. The salary burden also falls harder on NATO,
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