A 656 Sqn, 4 Regt AAC Apache D being taxied into position during Exercise SPRING STORM 23 at a live fire coastal range in Estonia 02062023 credit MOD.jpg
While the UK is meeting the 2% target, it is spending less on defence than before (Picture: MOD)

A record number of Nato nations have met or exceed the alliance’s spending target, but other members are still falling short.

Out of the 31 Nato members, 23 are expected to meet Nato’s guideline of spending 2% of their GDP on defence.

This is a huge increase from 2014, when only three Nato allies hit the spending target.

The increase in defence spending means European Nato allies as a whole are collectively spending 2% of their combined GDP – worth $380bn – on defence for the first time.

This year’s estimates are set to exceed Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s projection. 

In 2023, he said 18 nations were expected to spend 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defence in 2024. 

Number of Allies meeting 2%
Graph of Nato members meeting 2% GDP spending guideline in 2024 (Picture: Nato)

“We are making real progress. European allies are spending more. However, some allies still have a way to go,” Mr Stoltenberg said.

The latest increases follow a trend of gradual increases in defence spending across the alliance over the last decade – Nato allies in Europe invested only 1.47% of their collective GDP in defence in 2014.

Germany’s commitment to Nato’s target to spend 2% of its GDP on defence marks the first time it has done so since the early 1990s.

Defence expenditure as share of GDP CREDIT NATO
Defence expenditure as share of GDP (Picture: Nato)

Which nations are not spending 2% on defence?

Eight Nato members are not estimated to reach the target in 2024. They are Croatia (1.81%), Portugal (1.55%), Italy (1.49%) Canada (1.37%), Belgium (1.30%), Luxembourg (1.29%), Slovenia (1.29%) and Spain (1.28%).

However, all of the above-listed countries apart from Croatia, are spending more on defence than last year, bringing them closer to the target. 

There has been a gradual increase in defence spending from Nato members across the board. In 2023, 11 nations reached the Nato guideline, up from seven in 2022.

In 2023, Poland was the alliance’s biggest spender as a share of GDP, contributing 3.90%, spending even more as a share of GDP than the US (3.49%) in second and Greece (3.01%) the next closest.

This year, Poland has retained its place as the biggest spender, contributing 4.12%. 

The US, on the other hand, is spending less this year than the previous year, contributing 3.38%, which is putting it behind Estonia, who are estimated to spend 3.43%.

One trend seen is that countries bordering Ukraine, Russia, or its neighbour and ally Belarus, are spending increasingly more following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

In 2023, Estonia (2.73%), Lithuania (2.54%), Finland (2.45%), Romania (2.44%), Hungary (2.43%) and Latvia (2.27%) have all exceeded the alliance’s guideline for defence expenditure.

Watch: 20,000 British soldiers, sailors and aviators to deploy by land, sea and air across Europe to participate in a huge Nato exercise this year.

The UK did make the 2% list.

The percentage spent by Britain on defence has risen from 2.14% in 2014 to an estimated 2.33% in 2023.

This is an increase from last year which saw the UK spend 2.07% of its GDP on defence.

In 2022, the UK was the fourth highest proportional spender within Nato, but dropped down to 10th in 2023, just ahead of Slovakia (2.03%).

The nations falling short of the alliance’s target in 2023 were France (1.90%), Montenegro (1.87%), North Macedonia (1.87%), Bulgaria (1.84%), Croatia (1.79%), Albania (1.76%), the Netherlands (1.70%), Norway (1.67%), Denmark (1.65%), Germany (1.57%), Czech Republic (1.50%), Portugal (1.48%), Italy (1.46%), Canada (1.38%), Slovenia (1.35%), Turkey (1.31%), Spain (1.26%), Belgium (1.13%) and Luxembourg (0.72%).

Iceland, which does not have any armed forces, was not featured on the list.

Nato was formed in the aftermath of the Second World War and its original goals were to secure peace in Europe, promote co-operation among its members and counter the threat posed by the Soviet Union.

NATO defence expenditure estimates for 2023 120224 CREDIT NATO.jpg
Estimated defence spending by alliance members in 2023 (Picture: Nato)

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