The general consensus that they showed this week in the Madrid summit NATO countries to increase their defense spending collides with the evidence of the financial gap that the Atlantic Alliance still drags: 20 countries will not meet this year the goal of investing at least 2% of GDP in defensewhat it means 155,136 million less for the joint effortalthough it will remain again offset by huge US military spendingthe largest in the world by far.
This week’s summit, repeatedly described as historic by the leaders, served for the allies to redefine their strategy, again placing Russia as their main enemy, and to open the door to two new members, Sweden and Finland. Also for insist on the need to spend more money on defense in order to face the threats of a world that the Alliance perceives as more dangerous and uncertain.
Despite the lack of detailed figures, the General Secretary Jens Stoltenbergmade it clear that investment should grow in the coming years and even go beyond the threshold which was set eight years ago: “The 2% [del PIB] is increasingly considered the floor, not the ceiling,” he stressed on Wednesday. And the US President Joe Bidenreaffirmed that idea on Thursday: “Most NATO members are on track to exceed the commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defense.”
Two thirds do not comply
That threshold is Washington’s persistent vindication to its partners, for years and regardless of the tenant of the White House, with the ultimate goal of being able to reduce their own outlay. Although he is not legally binding, was included as a commitment at the 2014 Wales summit with a ten-year horizonbut in 2022 only nine of the allies will reach itaccording to data published this week by NATO.
Spain, with an investment in defense equivalent to 1.01% of GDP, is one of those that is furthest from fulfilling it; only Luxembourg, which will allocate 0.58%, and Iceland, which has no armed forces, will spend less relative to the size of their economy. The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchezis committed to approaching the target in 2029for which he has requested the support of all political parties.
Among the defaulters are other great powers, such as Turkeywhich will allocate 1.22% of its gross domestic product to defense; Canada, which remains at 1.27%; either Italy, which reaches 1.54%. Also Germanywhich will be at 1.44%, although the new coalition government has already announced, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a significant boost in its military spending to reach the threshold set by NATO.
Greece, the ally that allocates the most to defense
France, the third nuclear power of the Atlantic Alliance together with the United States and the United Kingdom, fulfilled in 2021 and this year it will be only one tenth of achieving it. It will also stay very close Romaniaanother country that met last year, and that in 2022 will be at 1.99% of its GDP.
Among those who reach the goal stands out Greecewith 3.76%, a percentage even higher than that of USA. Also United Kingdomas well as several countries on the eastern flank of NATO, where the threat from Russia is perceived to be much closer: Poland, Croatia, Slovakia and the three Baltic republics, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The majority of the allies, including Spain, if it agrees with the NATO’s second financial commitment, which calls for investing at least 20% of defense spending on military equipment. Thus, there are six countries that do not meet either of the two criteria: Albania, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Canada, Slovenia and Belgium.
The largest military organization in the world
The funding gap by countries that do not spend 2% of GDP on defense adds 155,136 million dollarsat constant 2015 prices, of which only 10,656 million are compensated with the surplus of the contributions of the eight allies, excluding the United Statesthat if they reach that threshold.
As a last resort, it is Washington that covers the difference, by spending 306,000 million more than its objective would mark, resulting in a final contribution this year of almost 723,000 million dollars. It is 68.8% of total NATOwhich for this year accounts for a collective defense expenditure of 1.05 billion dollars.
It is true that, Even without the United States, NATO would still be the most powerful military organization in the world., with a joint expenditure of the other 29 allies that would exceed that of China, the second country with the highest military spending. But is US investment, which exceeds the sum of the spending of the other nine countries that spend the most money on defense in the world, the one that gives a definite advantage over any possible enemy.
Increase operating budget
In addition to increasing joint defense spending, the allies have also agreed in Madrid to increase the organization’s operating budgetthat is, the money that is pooled to cover the current expenses of the Atlantic Alliance, from the headquarters in Brussels to the joint military exercises.
For this year 2022the General Secretariat has a budget of about 2,600 million eurosof which the largest part, 1,560 million, are allocated to the military structure, while the rest go to investments (790 million) and to the civilian structure of the Alliance (289.1 million).
At the end of the summit, Jens Stoltenberg pointed out that “the agreement reached represents a considerable, significant increase in the common budget of NATO” until the year 2030which will allow greater joint investment in equipment or military exercises, although the specific figures will be decided when drawing up the next budgets.