Although NATO’s European member countries have begun to increase defence spending, there is a $100bn deficit between aspirations and actual spending levels. In the context of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, states are seeking to heighten military readiness.

Since the onset of the Ukraine crisis, about a third of NATO’s European member countries have moved towards increasing their defence budgets. There are signs, therefore, that pledges made at NATO’s September 2014 Wales Summit to halt the long decline in European military spending are beginning to be met. However, the increases announced so far fall far short of plugging the roughly $100 billion gap between current levels and the aspiration to spend the equivalent of 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) on defence.

The Wales Summit Declaration contained promises to stabilise the reductions in defence spending that have taken place in most member states since the 2008 financial crisis. Where possible, states were to raise defence outlays towards the NATO target of 2% of GDP, which in 2014 was met by only three European Alliance members: Estonia, Greece and the United Kingdom. States also pledged to move towards allocating a minimum of 20% of their defence budgets to the acquisition of military equipment. These efforts were part of broader measures undertaken to bolster European security in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine, including heightened military readiness and the deployment of NATO troops to Eastern Europe.

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