The number of NATO allies spending at least 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on military spending is expected to jump this year, according to the alliance.
Estimates released on Friday by NATO show that at least 11 allies should reach the target set by the transatlantic military alliance. Only seven are believed to have reached the target in 2022.
Joining the three Baltic countries, Greece, Poland, the UK and the US in reaching the target this year are Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and new ally Finland.
Poland is now forecast to overtake the US when spending is compared to GDP but in real terms, the scale of the investment is much different.
Washington is seen spending $860 billion (€788 billion) on defence expenditure this year, dwarfing Poland’s $29 billion (€26.6 billion) projection.
The US’s huge spending in the sector is the main reason NATO as a whole spends more than 2% of GDP on defence. When excluding Washington, defence spending for the alliance reaches just 1.74% of GDP, but when its contribution is taken into account, the share soars to 2.64% of GDP.
This uneven burden-sharing has been a source of criticism from Washington for years and took a whole new dimension on 24 February 2022 when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, in effect bringing full-fledged conventional war back on European soil.
The aggression spurred European allies to announce a ramp-up in military spending. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, for instance, promised a Zeitenwende (‘change of era’) in defence policy and earmarked €100 billion for military investments in the country’s 2022 budget, more than double the figure from the 2021 budget.
The new figures were released just days before the leaders of the 31 members of the alliance gather in Vilnius for a two-day summit.
They are expected to make new spending pledges during their time in the Lithuanian capital as well as reaffirm their commitments to Ukraine, including the prospect of eventual membership. New regional plans to bolster the alliance’s interoperability and defence against growing global challenges should also be endorsed by the heads of state.
One topic likely to overshadow the beginning of the summit, however, is the fact that Sweden, which applied to join the alliance alongside Finland shortly after Russia launched its attack, still has its bid blocked by Turkey and Hungary. Membership in the military alliance needs unanimity.