The war in Ukraine is blowing up military budgets in Europe

The war in Ukraine is blowing up military budgets in Europe

The war in Ukraine is dragging Europe into a new arms race. While most NATO members have so far been reluctant to devote 2% of their GDP to the military sector, as the organization demanded, Poland announced on Monday 30 January that it would reach the 4% mark in 2023. Many other European countries are not left out.

According to a NATO report, Poland had spent more than 2.4% of its GDP on defense in 2022, which placed it third in the organization behind Greece (3.76%) and the United States (3.47%). Warsaw’s politics can be explained in part by its proximity to Russia and the history, always tumultuous and often brutal, which unites the two countries.

The increase in Polish military spending will be used to finance the purchase of equipment. Warsaw will thus acquire 32 F-35 fighter planes and 366 Abrams tanks from the United States. Poland has also concluded a contract with Turkey for Bayraktar drones and with South Korea for 1,000 K2 tanks and 50 FA-50 aircraft.

A revolution in Germany

A second revolution has also taken place further west, in Germany, where the government announced in the wake of the invasion that it would add 100 billion euros to its 2022 military budget. Europe in terms of defense now exceeds 2% of its GDP, whereas they have stagnated at 1.3% since 2008.

The German military budget becomes the largest in Europe, ahead of those of the United Kingdom or France. A historic turning point in a country where pacifism has deeply permeated political thought since the Second World War, during which the Nazis defeated and occupied nine European countries.

If the new Polish and German commitments are spectacular, these two countries are not the only ones to have decided to increase their military expenditure. Emmanuel Macron notably announced that the French budget would increase from 43 billion euros per year currently to 59 billion over the period 2024-2030.

The Belgian budget will increase from 4.2 billion euros (0.9% of GDP) to 6.9 billion (1.54%) by 2030. Italy, which currently devotes 1, 41% of its GDP to this sector, announced that it would exceed the 2% mark without specifying a date.

An acceleration more than a turn

Sweden, which now wants to join NATO after decades of neutrality, has announced that its budget will increase from 6.2 billion euros (1.3%) in 2021 to 8.7 billion in 2025 (which would allow it to reach the fateful 2%).

The Baltic countries, neighbors of Russia and particularly vulnerable to a possible invasion, have also increased their military budget in a spectacular way. In December 2022, they all three promised to exceed the 3% mark of their respective GDPs (compared to 2.34% for Estonia, 2.10% for Latvia and 2.36% for Lithuania in 2022).

Under pressure from NATO, European nations had already begun to increase their military budgets during the 2010s. The new threat posed by Russia, however, greatly accelerated the movement.

18,891 tanks in Europe in 1991, 4,362 today

Since the end of the Cold War, the continent’s armies no longer envisaged large-scale combat against other professional forces. As a result, stocks have fallen considerably. The number of tanks has fallen from 18,891 in 1991 to 4,362 at present, that of submarines from 107 to 57. The increases announced since February 2022 seek to fill these gaps.

According to a report by McKinsey, without the Russian invasion, European spending would have increased by 14% between 2021 and 2026, from 296 to 337 billion euros. The consulting firm now expects an increase of between 53% (to reach 453 billion) and 65% (488 billion).


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