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Europe’s share of NATO’s defense spending has shrunk to less than a third since the financial crisis hit a few years ago. European governments are under pressure to cut their deficits, and have slashed defense budgets to the bone. Now, however, as new threats have emerged, that belt-tightening could be coming to an end.
Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute says the Russian bear rampaging around eastern Ukraine probably means an end to further reductions in defense spending among NATO’s European members. But, he adds, “The jury is still out as to whether it will mean significant increases.”
Of NATO’s 28 member states, only four currently meet the alliance’s defense spending target of at least 2 percent of the GDP. At this week’s summit, Britain called on its European allies to spend more. The response was muted, with most states making only a vague commitment to do so.
Dan Plesch of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy says:
“I don’t think there’s any appetite for that in Europe. There is such concern to get the economies moving again.”
Plesch says that because of the military might of the U.S., the truth is that NATO doesn’t need to spend much more to meet any threat from Russia.
“The reality that the Russians are hugely militarily inferior to the West means that there’s little real objective need for new military capability. Rather, a little spending on redeployment.”
But America’s patience with Europe’s paltry spending on defense is wearing thin. And Russia is upgrading. Within two years, the Russians will spend more on their military than Germany and France combined.
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