More money for defense? Belgium is 10 years behind.

The war in Ukraine brings NATO back into the spotlight. Sweden and Finland want to join quickly and NATO members are increasing their defense budgets. “For Belgium, this could mean an annual increase in the defense budget of €5 billion,” says public finance expert Hermann Matisse (University of Ghent and VUB).

Since Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24 this yearThe world is changing fast. The Finland It has been a neutral country since World War II, Sweden Even since the Napoleonic Wars of 1814, but both claim it now Joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). At the same time, the pressure on NATO member states to increase military spending. Although again Belgium is doing its best to escape from it.

At the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales, member states agreed to this Defense budgets will represent at least 2% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product, what each country produces in goods and services) by 2024, says Professor Hermann Matisse, a public expenditure specialist at Ghent University and VUB. “We are in 2022 and Out of 30 member countries, only 8 meet the agreed standard : United States, United Kingdom, Greece, Poland, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. France, Norway and Romania are practically 2%. Belgium dedicates 1.07% of its GDP to defenseOnly Spain and Luxembourg spend less. »

for decades, The United States spends a lot on defenseIt reaches 3.57% of GDP in 2021. Mattis notes that there are also significant differences within Europe. Thus, Greece allocates 3.59% of its GDP to military matters, while Luxembourg allocates only 0.54%. It’s easy to guess These big differences will now lead to great political debates“, says Mattis. After the Russian invasion, countries that spend a lot will demand higher contributions than countries that do not honor their agreements.”

painful

The controversy also rages in Belgium. It is a little embarrassing that in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, de Croo’s government decided that defense spending should increase to 1.39% of GDP by 2025 and 1.54% by 2030. When Germany, which already allocates 1.5% to defense, they decided to raise This percentage immediately to more than 2%.

Belgium spent 5.3 billion euros for defense Last year including pension. ” not much “, says Mattis. Denmark, with a population of half of Belgium, spent 4.6 billion. Norway, with a population of 5 million, spent 7.4 billion people. The Netherlands, with a population of 17.5 million, spent up to 12.3 billion, more than double what Belgium spent.”

Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo (Open VLD) is proposing to increase the defense budget to 2% by 2035, “and this is an additional annual expenditure of €5 billion at current prices,” he said. Groen and Ecolo don’t want to hear that and declare their veto. Prime Minister de Croo will likely be bored at the NATO summit in Madrid in June. Belgium is gradually becoming a “Diving Champion under the NATO umbrella”. Matisse: “Even if Alexandre de Croo’s proposals succeed, Belgium will be 10 years behind the agreed standard. And all this while the headquarters of NATO is located in Haren, and the central command center of NATO, fig., is located in Casteau, near Mons. »

turkey

As soldiers from NATO member states say: Turkey has 439,000 troops, by far the highest number in Europe. France, Germany, and the United Kingdom were left far behind, with 207,500, 184,400 and 156,000 troops, respectively. The United States has 1.3 million men and Belgium has 22,700 men. Matijs says: “Turkey has the second largest military force in NATO after the United States, and it is precisely President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who opposes the rapid accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO.”

Finland and Sweden will strengthen NATO. Finland will provide an additional 21,500 soldiers, and Sweden will provide 25,000 soldiers. “They also spend a lot of money on defense,” Mattis says. ” In the last years, Finland increased its defense budget to arm itself against Russia. It is now 1.9% of GDP, which is very close to the 2% that NATO member states must achieve. Swedish They have a long tradition of neutrality, but they have A well-equipped army as well as a strong defense industry, with Bofers and Saab, for example. They have already spent 1.5% of their GDP on defense and have announced that it will be 2% by 2023.”

In total, NATO member states allocated Just over 1,000 billion euros for defense in 2021, including 755 billion, or 70%, for the United States alone. EU member states spent a total of 203 billion euros on defence, less than 20% of the total. Together, all NATO member states contribute about 3.3 million troops, the United States with its 1.3 million troops accounts for 40% of this total, and the European Union, which has 1.2 million troops, provides 36%. Matthias: “It’s clear The defense budgets of EU member states are too small to play a significant role. Belgium and the European Union depend on the United States and non-EU countries such as the UK and Turkey to defend them, both in terms of budget and staff. »

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