Europe Plans To Spend Extra £30 Billion On Defence In 'Sharp Reversal' Of Years Of Cuts

17 June 2016

European countries will begin a “sharp reversal” of decades of defence cuts by spending an extra £30 billion on their armed forces by 2019, a new study has found.

For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union almost 25 years ago, military spending is rising across Western Europe. In response to Russian belligerence, the continent’s three leading military powers – Britain, France and Germany – are all planning to invest more.

In Britain, defence spending will rise by 3.1 per cent in real terms by 2019, while France has committed an extra £3.5 billion to its armed forces since the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015. Germany, meanwhile, is planning to reverse the defence cuts made since the financial crisis and restore the 2009 level of spending by 2017.

This reflects a general policy decision to strengthen Europe’s armed forces in response to Russia’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and the Kremlin’s subsequent invasion of eastern Ukraine.

“The deteriorating security environment in Europe over the last two years has resulted in a sharp reversal of defence spending trends in several EU member states, particularly those in the Western Europe,” said Fenella McGerty, the principal analyst at IHS Jane’s, a defence consultancy.

Total defence spending by Western European countries fell an average of 1.3 per cent every year from 2009 until 2015. This year will be the first in which military budgets have risen.

All Nato members have agreed to spend a minimum of two per cent of national income on defence. Despite the recent increases, however, only Britain, Estonia and Greece currently meet that target among the European allies. By 2019, they will probably have been joined by five or six other countries, including neighbours of Russia like Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.   

As well as Russian ambitions, Europe is also responding to the threat of terrorism. Ms McGerty noted that the attacks in Paris caused an “acute upward revision to the French military financing plan and sent wider ripples throughout the region as countries looked to re-assess their security measures”.


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