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Beyond the 2 Percent Budget: Are There Other Ways to Measure NATO’s Defense Spending?

2018.07.13.

Stefan Kornelius, the international section head of Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, analyzes the budget of the North Atlantic Alliance. Debating military expenses has become popular as of late, but Kornelius manages to bring a new perspective to the table. He claims that the 2 percent GDP normative can be misleading, but that there are other ways to measure how the nation states contribute to the allied defense expenses. 

According to the article, NATO has disagreed about the allocation of its general expenditures since the early 2000’s. After the peace dividend faded out at the end of the Cold War, the Alliance generated shortages in equipment and dysfunction in the military deployment and budgeting systems. This has since led to many significant arguments about finances.

At the 2012 NATO summit, every member state agreed that 2 percent of the GDP should be spent on defense, and the participating countries have until 2024 to accomplish it. NATO members have made great strides towards meeting the two percent goal, but have yet to reach it.

Kornelius outlines four different approaches to counting the military expenses, with regard to the complexity of the allied defense policy. He also draws attention to the misleading simplicity of the 2 percent regulation and how there are no set limitations dictating how the money should be spent. He argues that, instead of financing the development of military material, the member states could use the money to improve employment statistics, cover personnel expenditures, or pay for foreign missions.

He explains the stances of four experts on this topic:

    • The first group is the biggest. They say equipment and military potential should be the main elements of the calculation.
    • Group two measures loyalty in operations and deployments. How many soldiers are abroad? How long did the mission last? How committed is the country?
    • Group three strives to quantify the risks: is a country keeping its soldiers at headquarters, or are the troops out taking risks? This categorization is especially popular in Afghanistan. There are even statistics providing rankings of the number of killed or wounded, measured by the size of the population of each country.
    • The fourth category is new and close to the German government’s heart: Defending Europe should come first, no matter the cost. This approach focuses on European strength and emancipation from the USA.

      Participation of troops in NATO missions by countries (Afghanistan-Kosovo) by Gábor Sarnyai

      As he pointed out, it’s difficult to measure one nation’s contribution to the joint defense system. For instance, Hungary spends (comparing to its size and population) just 0.7 of its GDP to cover military expenses, yet the country has the second largest share in foreign NATO missions.

      Kornelius also noted that Germany would suffer from the budget debate due to its low military spending rates, but there is a chance the country will rectify this by 2024.

      Via: The Süddeutsche Zeitung