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Devote 2% of GDP to defense? How much will this new Grail cost?

On the way to Camp 1
The objective of 2% defense is for many countries more difficult than to cross a summit in the Himalayas, almost unachievable, except for a superhuman effort, without oxygen... (credit: MOD Netherlands / Archives B2 - Dutch expedition to the Manuslu)

(BRUSSELS2) The objective of devoting 2% of GDP to Defense is repeated regularly by several European officials. Barack Obama recalled this during his visit to Hamburg. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg does not fail to repeat this regularly. And this objective should again be reaffirmed as necessary by the heads of government or state at the Warsaw summit next July (as it was at the Wales summit in September 2014).

From words to actions... there is a step!

In the current economic conditions, achieving this objective seems difficult for several countries. Even spread over several years over 10 years, this seems difficult to sustain. In fact, the objective is "unrealistic", except to have a determined, voluntarist policy, carried out over a long period (at least 5 or 10 years). A very interesting study, carried out by two researchers, Frederic Mauro and Klaus Thoma, on behalf of the European Parliament, demonstrates this (1).

Germany should spend 6 billion more over 5 years to catch up

To achieve this objective, Germany would have to spend an additional $31 billion, or double its budget (including $9 billion for equipment). Which, even over a period of 10 years, would require a continuous effort of + $3 billion per year to be found in the federal budget. Even for a "rich" country, it is not so obvious as that.

An almost insurmountable effort for Italy like Spain

For Italy as for Spain, the effort is major: 20 billion more to be found for Rome and 15 billion for Madrid. Suffice to say that in this period of budget scarcity and reduction of deficits, this objective seems insurmountable. And getting to 2% becomes an illusory goal.

A significant catch-up for Belgium and the Netherlands

For other countries like the Hague or Brussels, even if the figure is not as striking, in absolute value, it is significant in relative value for the national budget and almost impossible to justify for national governments: + 7,5 billion for the Netherlands and + $5,5 billion for Belgium. For the latter country, that means an increase of almost 10% in the national budget! Difficult to cash in... and justify.

A goal within reach for France

For France, the effort required is relatively low. According to statistics compiled by the European Defense Agency, in 2014 defense spending accounted for 1,85% of GDP. This represents an effort to provide of $4,6 billion. And that's not counting the budget extensions granted in 2015 and 2016. The 2% target is therefore within reach... contrary to what Nicolas Sarkozy suggests.

British, almost good students!

It should be noted that for the United Kingdom, there is (for the moment) no effort to provide, London already reaching 2%. The question for the British is rather to maintain the objective, the recent trend across the Channel being to cut budgets, it will be necessary to reinject the pound sterling into the engine of Defense if the army of Her Gracious Majesty wants to remain in good students...

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) read also: European defense research out of investment

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

One thought on “Devote 2% of GDP to defense? How much will this new Grail cost?"

  • No wonder it's the United States asking for this...
    If you want to exceed 2%, just buy a few F-35s, given its price!
    Between its two aircraft carriers and its F-35s, it is not surprising that the United Kingdom, despite budget cuts, unit cuts, and capability losses, displays large expenditures for a small army…
    Despite certain shortcomings (projection…), the French army is much more balanced!
    As for the German army…, it is stocking up…!

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