Defense Spending in New Europe Plummeting ({{commentsTotal}})

A US soldier taking part in the BALTOPS 2012 joint military exercise
A US soldier taking part in the BALTOPS 2012 joint military exercise Source: Photo: AFP/Scanpix

Forbes wrote last week that military spending has decreased in "New Europe" - that is, the nations formerly part of the Warsaw Pact or the Soviet Union - despite NATO membership and Russia's increased spending.

The analysis is based on statistics from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which show that military spending in the region was 14 percent lower last year compared with in 2000.

“But rather than teaching the West Europeans about the importance of firmness and strength, it appears that the East Europeans have quickly learned that NATO is a giant exercise in free-riding at the expense of the American taxpayer,” the article said.

According to the statistics, nearly all ex-Soviet bloc nations managed to increase military spending up to 2007, with the Latvians leading the way, increasing their spending from 2000 to 2007 by more than fourfold. Estonia's spending tripled during the same period.

But after the recession kicked in, Latvia cut its defense budget by half, Lithuania and Estonia by a third. Other nations in the region chose similar paths.

The share of military spending in GDP shows an even clearer picture; only Estonia, Poland, Slovenia and Albania spend a larger portion of GDP on defense than 12 years back, but even those increases have been small, with Albania's boost from 1.2 to 1.5 percent being the frontrunner.

Russia, meanwhile doubled its spending on military from 2000 to 2007, but also managed to increase spending each year since, and now is three times higher than 12 years ago.