May 18, 2024

Defense spending: Germany misses NATO target

DEven in the breakthrough year, Germany fell well short of NATO’s two percent target. According to the Alliance’s report released on Tuesday, defense spending will be only 1.49 percent of GDP in 2022, 1.46 percent (2021) and 1.51 percent (2020). Of the thirty member states, 17 spent more money on defense relative to their economic output than Berlin. Greece, the United States, Lithuania, Poland, the United Kingdom, Estonia and Latvia (in that order) had seven countries above the coalition’s 2% threshold set as a benchmark after Russia annexed Crimea.

Thomas Kutzker

EU, NATO and Benelux political correspondent based in Brussels.

“We are moving in the right direction, but not as fast as the dangerous world we live in requires,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Clearly, much more needs to be done. He reiterated his call for a new lower limit of two per cent from 2024 at the coalition summit in July. One cannot take ten years to do this, it must take effect “immediately”. “I would expect most partners to be able to get to two percent very quickly,” Stoltenberg said. As for Germany, he said it was committed to the two percent target and that earlier increases in spending were already making themselves felt.

Berlin came in at 19.9 percent

Federal Defense Minister Boris Pistorius spoke in favor of a new lower limit of two per cent at the Coalition’s last cabinet meeting. SPD Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a special fund of 100 billion euros in his speech after the Russian attack on Ukraine: “From now on we will invest more than two percent of GDP every year in our defense.” However, at the Munich Security Conference, he reined in this in February and pledged to “permanently increase these expenditures to two percent of GDP.” An increase in expenditure is expected in the current year as most of the special fund will be expended; In the previous year it was only 300 million euros. The ruling coalition is still wrestling with the 2024 defense budget.

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According to NATO figures, based on a standardized calculation method and tentative for 2022, Germany also missed the second spending target, which is to spend at least 20 percent on equipment. 26 member states exceeded this target, with Berlin coming in at 19.9 percent. Overall, defense spending by all allies increased by 2.2 percent over the previous year. As always, the US accounted for 70 percent of the total cost. Measured in absolute terms, Germany recorded the third-highest spending after the United States and the United Kingdom at $53.9 billion.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) at a meeting in mid-February.


NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) at a meeting in mid-February.
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Image: A.P

Stoltenberg announced the reconvening of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at the next foreign ministers’ meeting in April. The secretary-general made it clear that he was defying Budapest, which has blocked the meeting since 2017 over the dispute over Ukraine’s Hungarian minority.