The military spending of Russia's neighboring countries skyrockets with the war | International
The toughest rhetoric and positions in Europe against Russia after the invasion of Ukraine are found precisely in the countries that are closest: the three Baltic republics, Finland or Poland. And this position does not remain in words, but is reflected in military spending. In the past two years, several of Moscow's closest neighbors have increased their defense budgets the most among NATO members. Warsaw, for example, has almost doubled its effort in this field, going from an amount that was equivalent to 2.2% of its GDP in 2021 to an estimated 3.9% for this year (about 26.5 billion euros), according to the numbers offered this Friday by the Atlantic Alliance itself. The Polish jump is, without a doubt, the most accentuated, although there are other significant ones in Rumania, Finland or Estonia.
The cause of this budget increase is not only in the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. It must also be borne in mind that in 2014 all NATO partners pledged to increase their defense budget to at least an amount equivalent to 2% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of each of the allies, although in a 10-year horizon that would expire next year. This helps to explain that, in the forecast spending estimates presented by the military organization this Friday, all countries spend more on their armies than they did in 2022. The data will only fall, according to that projection, in Greece, which with 3% of GDP, it far exceeds this minimum objective, in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Italy. Spain plans to allocate 1.26% to defense, an amount of the lowest in the Alliance, although it marks an increase compared to 1.07% in 2022.
This general increase in defense budgets has led to the fact that there are already 11 countries in the military alliance that exceed the 2% of GDP indicated almost a decade ago, a path promoted by the United States, which has urged the allies to invest more in your own safety. “When we agreed to that commitment in 2014, only three allies fulfilled it. This year, 11 have met or exceeded it. And we hope that this number will grow substantially next year”, stressed the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, during the press conference prior to the summit that the organization is holding in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, on the next 11 and 12 of July. “In 2023 there will be a real increase of 8.3% [del presupuesto] in the European allies and Canada, it is the largest in decades and the ninth consecutive”, celebrated the Norwegian, who this week was re-elected to continue directing the organization for another year.
A cursory look at the accounts presented this Friday helps to understand the role that the United States plays in the Alliance and the defense of its allies. NATO's forecast is that in 2023 joint spending will be 1.264 trillion dollars (1.15 trillion euros, an amount slightly less than the entire GDP of Spain). Of that joint figure, 68% corresponds to the United States budget, 860,000 million dollars.
Despite being very high, this percentage is the lowest since the 2014 commitment was signed and two points lower than last year. And here the increase made by the countries of Eastern Europe and the closest Russia comes into play. Their comparable increases (measured with GDP) are among the highest in practically all cases, to the point that Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Romania, Hungary, Latvia or Slovakia have reached the highest spending in at least the last 10 years and all exceed 2% of GDP.
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As happened last year at the NATO summit in Madrid, defense spending will once again play a leading role in Vilnius. NATO is made up of 31 countries and only 11 comply with the 2014 commitment. In the Spanish case, for example, the Alliance estimate is that this year the bill will amount to just over 18,000 million euros, a figure that is equivalent to to 1.26% of GDP, and it will not be until 2029 when the committed 2% is reached, as announced by the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez.
But like Spain, there are still 19 other countries that do not comply with what was agreed in 2014 on budgets. So there will be references to that aspect in the final statement, sources from the organization point out. However, the statement will not only talk about money. It will also include the deployment of forces abroad and in that Spain does stand out, having military personnel and resources in Estonia, Latvia, Turkey and Iraq, on behalf of NATO. There will also be references to the level of investment in equipment (research and development), a chapter to which Spain allocates 29% of its resources, when the requirement is 20%.
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