Even though the global state of security, especially the potential threat from Russia has only grown in the recent years, only three NATO countries in the European Union hit the alliance’s defence spending target in 2017 – Estonia among them.
In the EU, only Greece, the United Kingdom and Estonia hit the defence spending target of 2% of the GDP, the target set by the NATO guidelines.
On average, the European members of NATO in total spent 1.46% of GDP in 2017, compared with 1.44% of GDP in 2016.
The biggest spender on defence in NATO is the United States, contributing a whopping 3.57% of its GDP. In 2017, it was up by 0.01 percentage points, compared with 2016.
Altogether, the 29 allies of NATO invested more than US$900 billion on defence in 2017, with the US spending accounting for two-thirds of that amount.
Four of 29 countries meet the spending target
The secretary-general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, said that eight allies were likely to spend the target NATO benchmark of 2% of their GDP on defence in 2018.
In all of NATO, only four countries actually met the defence spending target in 2017 – the US, the UK, Greece and Estonia. Poland came close, but new estimates show it dipped under.
According to the guidelines of the alliance, every member should spend at least two per cent of its GDP on defence. However, it’s just a guideline, not a legally binding requirement – and therefore many members of the alliance feel free to ignore it.
The US president, Donald Trump, has repeatedly criticised the NATO members who aren’t paying their fair share for their own defence, and questioned whether the US would actually come to the aid of the countries who aren’t.
Cover: The insignia of the Kuperjanov Infantry Battalion of the Estonian Defence Forces (images courtesy of the Estonian Defence Forces).