NATO: Falling short?

NATO released its Expenditures Data for 2014 and Estimates for 2015 report on Monday (maybe next year they will come up with a snappier title).

Why is this important? Well as always it’s good to know who is spending what. More significantly, this is a bit of a naming and shaming exercise to see who isn’t pulling their weight among the member nations.

What’s the target amount to be spent on defence by governments? It’s 2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually, first formulated in 2006.

Nato pic 2And who are the winners? For the 2015 predictions on spending as a percentage of GDP: Estonia at 2%, Greece at 2.4%, UK at 2.1%, the US at 3.6% and new entry Poland now spending 2.2% of GDP on defence, up from 1.8% in 2014.

So out of 28 member states only five have managed to meet the 2% requirement set out by NATO, despite the growing threat from Russia and ISIL. And if you believe what you read on the internet it seems that the UK is taking a short cut to 2% by including spending on peacekeeping missions in the target. Which is apparently perfectly legit.

So the next question is how worried should we be that not all of the nations are getting their wallets out? Well, at the NATO summit in Wales last year the allied states agreed to reverse the trend towards declining budgets and work towards the Holy Grail of 2%. We cannot however expect that to happen overnight, with NATO noting that those currently under the bar should aim towards the 2% guidelines within a decade.


  • Right Greece may be spending more than the UK, but has Greece contributed much to NATO defence–Baltics, Response Force, Afghanistan, Standing Naval Groups?

    It’s true military spending levels matter. But it is quite clear what is done with it.


  • This is the problem with the 2% target, if your GDP has tanked then you might be hitting the 2% target but not actually be able to contribute that much in terms of requirements and operations. It’s likely that Greece is spending less in real terms than the UK.

    According to the document in 2015 the UK will spend 58,529 million USD while Greece is on 4,581.

    Wile 2% target is a good indicator, it’s not the be all and end all. Maybe more important is a target of 20% of defence spending on equipment.


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