NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has clearly criticized the only slowly increasing defense spending of allied states. “We’re moving in the right direction, but we’re not moving as fast as the dangerous world we live in requires,” said the Norwegian, referring to the challenges posed by Russia, terrorism and China.

He expects the heads of state and government to agree on ambitious targets at the next summit in July. Defense spending of 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) should become the new lower limit.

The current NATO target is that by 2024 all allied states should approach the benchmark of spending at least two percent of their GDP on defense. In 2022, however, according to the latest NATO figures, only seven allies achieved it. In addition to the USA, Great Britain and Poland, these were the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia as well as Greece.

30 NATO countries spent around 1.2 trillion dollars

According to the latest estimates, the 30 NATO countries spent a total of around 1.2 trillion US dollars (about 1.1 trillion euros) on defense last year. Compared to 2021, this represented an increase of 1.9 percent, according to a report by Stoltenberg.

The main reason why the increase was not higher despite the Russian attack on Ukraine is that the budgets for 2022 were already planned by the governments in the previous year and thus before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A significantly stronger increase is expected for 2023. Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz has repeatedly reiterated that Germany intends to permanently increase its defense spending to two percent of gross domestic product. A special fund of 100 billion euros, which was announced last year, is to be used for this purpose.

Germany increased spending by ten percent

In 2022, according to the latest NATO figures, Germany increased its expenditure relevant to the alliance by ten percent from around 52.4 to 57.7 billion euros. However, the NATO target was again missed by far. According to the comparative figures, the Federal Republic of Germany spent around 1.5 and not the planned 2.0 percent of its gross domestic product on defense.

With around 822 billion dollars, the USA again invested more than twice as much money in defense as all other 29 NATO partners combined and was thus also the absolute number one internationally.

For comparison: The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) recently estimated Russia’s military spending at just $87.9 billion, which, taking into account differences in purchasing power in the West, would correspond to an estimated $192 billion. China was therefore at 242.4 billion dollars or adjusted for purchasing power at 360 billion dollars.

It is still unclear whether the NATO summit in July will actually result in a significant tightening of the two percent target. According to diplomats, countries such as Italy, Canada and Belgium have made it clear that they are critical of Stoltenberg’s plans. Italy, for example, points to limited room for maneuver due to its high level of debt.