(MENAFN) In a notable development, the European Union (EU) has reported a substantial surge in military spending, reaching a historic high of EUR240 billion (USD261.4 billion) in 2022. Figures released by the European Defense Agency on Thursday revealed a remarkable 6 percent increase in defense budgets across the European Union, with 20 of the 28 member states participating in the uptrend. Among these nations, six countries implemented significant budget hikes, with Sweden leading the pack with an impressive 30 percent increase. The tiny kingdom of Luxembourg closely followed at 28 percent, Lithuania recorded a robust 27.6 percent boost in spending, and Spain's ruling socialists oversaw a notable 19 percent uptick.
Last July, Sweden, expressing its strategic ambitions, applied to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This move was accompanied by a substantial increase in military spending, signifying a broader commitment to bolstering defense capabilities. Additionally, Luxembourg, Lithuania, and Spain's noteworthy budget increases reflect a shared concern over geopolitical tensions, particularly in light of anti-Russia sentiments.
In total, the European Union devoted 1.5 percent of its GDP to defense expenditures in 2022, underscoring the collective emphasis on strengthening military capabilities. However, despite 22 European Union members being NATO allies, only five nations—Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland—met the alliance's requirement to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense. Encouragingly, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Finland joined this group in surpassing the 2 percent threshold in the current year.
A considerable portion of the record military budget, amounting to EUR58 billion (USD68.1 billion), was earmarked for defense investments and weapons procurement, witnessing a 6 percent increase from the previous year. Notably, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had pledged in March to almost double Germany's military spending through a substantial cash injection.
However, as of February, less than a third of the allocated lump sum had been assigned to contracts, highlighting potential challenges in implementing these ambitious military investment plans.
While the European Union's combined military budget has reached unprecedented levels, it still falls significantly short of the colossal defense expenditure of the United States. In 2022, the United States allocated a staggering USD752.9 billion for defense, a figure that has further escalated to USD816.7 billion in the current year, accounting for approximately 3.5 percent of its GDP. The stark contrast emphasizes the substantial gap between the European Union and the United States in terms of military financial commitments, raising questions about the implications of such disparities on global security dynamics.
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