Jaak Madison: NATO members must contribute more to defense

Jaak Madison.
Jaak Madison. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

A year since Russia's aggression, two-thirds of NATO members still do not meet the goal of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense, MEP Jaak Madison writes.

Even though final defense spending of NATO member states has not been published for this year, one of Europe's leading economic think tanks Econpol has calculated it based on member state budgets.

A defense policy agreement from the 2014 NATO summit in Wales, following the annexation of Crimea, saw members of the Alliance agree to ensure or at least strive for spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense. Back then, in 2014, only three(!) NATO members spent more. They were the U.S., U.K. and Greece.

It is nine years since the agreement and over a year since Russia's aggression in Ukraine, while only 11 member states out of 30 meet the target (more than three at least). The excuses are classical. That a promise by the government is not enough as the parliament needs to sign off on it, or that succeeding governments have been reluctant to uphold their predecessors' political agreements.

Unfortunately, 11 member states also spend less than 1.5 percent of GDP on national defense. This divides NATO into three distinct groups. A third of members takes their defense seriously, a third is trying to maintain at least a satisfactory level (1.5-2 percent of GDP), while the final third inhabits a different dimension, spending under 1.5 percent of the gross domestic product on defense.

One encouraging aspect is that Eastern Europe has been the fastest to boost defense investments in the last year. Leading the pack is Poland that is investing 4.3 percent of GDP in defense in 2023, up from 2.1 percent in 2021.

It is also at first glance positive that the 30 NATO members (plus candidate Sweden) are spending 2.6 percent of their combined GDP on defense, or €1.2 trillion. Not bad as such. However, it remains a mathematical fact that without the USA, the other members' contribution would come to just 1.8 percent of GDP – €50 billion short of the 2 percent goal.

Unfortunately, there is little to suggest some of the largest NATO economies have taken defense spending seriously when putting together their 2023 budgets, this on the backdrop of Russia's militant posture. Germany is investing just 1.6 percent of GDP in defense, Italy 1.5 percent, Spain 1.2 percent and the Netherlands 1.5 percent.

These facts should make it clear that even though NATO is the world's largest defensive alliance on which we can undoubtedly rely, security threats are not understood equally in Poland, Estonia or Spain (nor should we fool ourselves into thinking this has ever been the case).

The solution is contributing more to one's national defense, where Poland serves as a brilliant example. While everyone loves to emphasize NATO Article Five that speaks of the principle of collective defense, Article Five rests on Article Three. "In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the Parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack."

These efforts should be more serious also in Estonia where the government is instead looking to score points with same-sex marriage or a car tax.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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