Despite the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, NATO allies in Europe continued to invest more in their defense in 2020, marking the sixth consecutive year of increased defense spending by European NATO allies. Eleven allies now meet the 2 percent-of-real gross domestic product (GDP) threshold established at the 2014 Wales Summit, up from just three allies in 2014. Additionally, eighteen allies spent 20 percent or more of their defense budgets on major equipment procurement, research, and development, up from seven in 2014.
European NATO allies plus Canada have added $190 billion in new defense spending altogether, with all but four European allies increasing their budgets in real terms. While NATO may be moving away from the 2 percent-of-GDP metric as the go-to measure of burden-sharing, it can nevertheless be a helpful indication of the efforts being made across the Alliance to invest in common defense and bolster deterrence against threats.
Connor McPartland is the assistant director of the Atlantic Council’s Transatlantic Security Initiative in the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.
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