STOCKHOLM (AP) — In the wake of the Ukraine crisis, several European countries — particularly those close to Russia — have signaled plans to spend more on their armed forces.
But the bigger nations that account for the bulk of Europe’s defense spending have so far resisted calls by NATO officials and President Barack Obama to expand their military budgets. Only a few of them meet the alliance’s goal of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on their armed forces.
With Obama in Poland on Tuesday announcing U.S. plans to increase its military presence in Europe at a cost of up to $1 billion, here’s a glance at the military outlays in some of NATO’s biggest members in Europe:
Britain has kept its defense spending steady in the past decade. At 2.4 percent of GDP, British military spending exceeded $60 billion in 2013 — the highest of all European NATO members, according to figures from the alliance. Britain has not announced any plans to boost spending, but has urged European countries that spend less on defense to increase their budgets.
France’s defense spending as a percentage of its GDP has dropped from about 2.5 percent 10 years ago to 1.9 percent last year, according to NATO statistics. President Francois Hollande this week vowed to spare the defense budget from new cuts after top military chiefs threatened to resign amid fears of further reductions. While France is concerned with the situation in Ukraine, its main military focus has been on Africa — Mali and Central African Republic in recent months.
In Germany, where military spending is a sensitive issue due to the country’s martial history, about 1.3 percent of GDP is devoted to the military. While that’s below average among NATO’s European members, in total numbers Germany ranks third, behind Britain and France. Germany is reducing the size of its army, which is expected to slightly trim military spending in coming years. But Chancellor Angela Merkel recently noted that Germany will keep military spending stable overall, unlike some other European countries.
NATO figures show Italy spends 1.2 percent of its GDP on the military. It has no plans to increase that. Instead, Italian Premier Matteo Renzi wants to cut 3 billion euros ($4.1 billion) from the defense budget, by rolling back on commitments to buy jets, selling disused barracks and restructuring the military, among other things.
The Netherlands spends about 1.3 percent of its GDP on the military. The Ukraine crisis has not had any impact on the government’s plans to cut that to 1.15 percent by 2017. The Dutch government notes that it has joined other NATO allies in sending jets to patrol the airspace over the Baltic countries and that “as a loyal ally, the Netherlands underscores solidarity with this contribution.”
Poland has kept is defense spending steady at just under 2 percent of GDP since it joined NATO in 2004. Speaking alongside Obama, Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski announced Tuesday that Poland would raise that figure to 2 percent as “a very tangible, very clear engagement” in the alliance. Other former communist countries in central and eastern Europe, including the Baltic countries and the Czech Republic, are also reviewing their military budgets. However, their outlays are just a small portion of NATO’s total defense spending.
Financially challenged Spain’s defense budget has shrunk from 1.2 percent of GDP in 2009 to 0.9 percent, NATO statistics show. There are no plans to increase it at the moment.
Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland, Alan Clendenning in Madrid, Frank Jordans in Berlin, Angela Charlton and Jamey Keaten in Paris, Sylvia Hui in London, and Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, contributed to this report.
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