14:12 May. 31, 2016
Russia's aggression and migrant crisis to endanger continental security
Defence spending by Europe's NATO states is set to rise for the first time in nearly a decade, figures show, as fears over Russian aggression and the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean stoke anxiety over security across the continent, reported The Financial Times.
"The forecast for 2016, based on figures from allied nations, indicates that 2016 will be the first year with increased defence spending among European allies for the first time in many, many years. We are faced with uncertainty, we are faced with more threats, more security challenges than in a generation, and we need unity, we need strength, we need stability," Mr Stoltenberg said.
Last year, NATO's European allies spent 253 billion U.S. dollars on defence. According to the 2% uideline, European countries should be spending an additional 100 billion U.S. dollars on their militaries. The current spend is equivalent to around 1,43% of gross domestic product. Alliance did not provide exact figures for 2016 because it said the data were provisional and had been shared with on a confidential basis. However, several key NATO states have publicly declared significant increases to their budgets.
The Baltic states which border Russia have made the biggest changes. Latvia's budget will rise nearly 60% this year. Lithuania will see a 35% increase, and Estonia 9%. Poland, Eastern Europe's main military power, is also raising defence expenditure 9%.
At NATO 2014 summit in Wales, amid alarm over Russia's invasion of Crimea and Moscow's growing military actions, allies pledged to freeze all further cuts in their defence budgets and work towards hitting Alliance's benchmarks for spending over the next 10 years. NATO allies were supposed to spend 2% of their annual GDP on defence. The rise in European budgets has come as a surprise to many inside NATO in spite of the commitment made in Wales. Many did not expect expenditure to grow at a time of economic travails and political instability in Europe.
"We still have a long way to go but the picture's better than it was before and I'm inspired by the fact that one year after the commitment in Wales we have been able to stop the cuts in Europe. Now it looks like, into the second year, we will have the first real increase in total European defence spending," said Mr Stoltenberg.