Ukraine Invasion Prompting European Defense Spending Hikes
Sweden has joined the growing list of European countries set to hike defense spending in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Sweden’s government announced it would raise spending on defense to 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) and that budgets would be allocated “as soon as it is practically possible,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told a March 10 press conference.
Stockholm had already been taking steps to boost its defense capability in response to Russia’s actions in Crimea in 2014. Ministers originally planned to increase defense spending by 85% between 2014 and 2025, the largest re-armament by the Scandinavian country since the 1950s.
“In a situation where tensions in our immediate area are worse than in several decades, we need to continue to strengthen our defense capabilities,” Andersson said.
While spending would be immediately increased to strengthen capability in the short term, Andersson added that there was work underway to find “a stable, long-term and solidary financing of the expansion.”
“The expansion must rest on a stable foundation for us to be able to have a strong and secure defense,” Andersson said.
Sweden’s decision comes on top of announcements made by several other European countries led by Germany, which announced plans for a €100 billion ($110 billion) fund to address capability gaps and an increase in defense spending as a proportion of GDP to 2%. The move is set to make Germany among the world’s largest spenders on defense.
Romanian President Klaus Iohnannis has indicated that Bucharest will raise spending from 2% of GDP to 2.5%, stating that the additional funding will “ensure better conditions for our armed forces, in order to better train and respond more effectively to the operational needs of the Romanian Army and current and future security challenges.”
Baltic state Latvia has also announced plans to raise spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2025; up from 2.2% this year. Artis Pabriks, Latvian defense minister, said the increase will enable the country to spend more on logistics capabilities and develop more uncrewed systems, as well as support investment for indirect fire support, the mechanization of ground forces and the strengthening of cyber security.
In Poland, new laws are being drafted that will allow Warsaw to further increase national defense spending to 3% of GDP to give the country’s armed forces a “greater deterrent potential,” defense minister Mariusz Błaszczak said.
Polish ministers hope to achieve the spending increase next year. It was previously envisioned that Poland would boost defense spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2023.
“This is an act that will allow us not only to increase the size of the Polish Army, but also to spend on the Polish Armed Forces, restore the reserve system, encourage soldiers to remain in service and implement the concept of universal defense,” Błaszczak said.
Denmark too has also pledged to raise defense spending permanently to 2% of GDP by 2033. Current Danish defense spending is around 1.4% of GDP.
Ministers are working to establish a reserve fund totaling DKR3.5 billion ($500 million) for increased preparation, strengthened diplomacy and humanitarian efforts.
Copenhagen is also looking to repeal Denmark’s opt-out of European defense initiatives and plans to hold a referendum on abolishing the clause in June.
“Denmark must be fully involved in the development of European defense and security policy,” Danish defense minister Morten Bødskov said. “Russia’s aggression on Ukraine threatens European peace and stability. Therefore, time calls for a gear shift.”
From a historic perspective, defense spending as a percentage of GDP in the EU during the height of the Cold War was roughly 3% in the 70s and 2.75% in the 80s. If European nations actually wanted to properly "signal" their resolve to be prepared to opposed Russian aggression, they would commit to at least 2.5%.