NATORecord Number of NATO Allies to Hit 2% Defense Spending Goal

By Henry-Laur Allik

Published 20 June 2024

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has announced that more NATO member states than originally expected were set to fulfill the 2% target of GDP defense spending this year. The NATO defense investment target was agreed upon in 2014. Across the alliance, all member states aside from Slovenia and Italy have upped their defense budget.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced on Monday that 23 of its 32 member states were expected to meet the alliance’s defense spending commitments this year. That is 13 countries more compared to last year’s data, and five more than an earlier estimate in February.

This is good for Europe and good for America,” Stoltenberg said in a speech unveiling the newest numbers in Washington, “especially since much of this extra money is spent here in the United States.”

The NATO defense investment target was agreed upon in 2014. The goal of the pledge was for members of the alliance to spend 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on national and joint defense, and to put 20% of annual defense expenditures toward new equipment. Much to the dismay of the US, the alliance’s largest military power, only 10 countries had met this target last year.

At the 2023 NATO summit in Vilnius, member states agreed to make 2% of national GDP the minimal defense spending commitment rather than the highest target to aim for. This commitment, coupled with the impression of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, appears to have had an effect, as NATO’s most recent defense expenditure report shows. Across the alliance, all member states aside from Slovenia and Italy have upped their defense budget.

Germany and France Increase Spending
The leading three country countries spending the highest percentage of national GDP on defense are Poland (4.12%), Estonia (3.43%), and the US (3.38%). Among the countries who have stepped up their defense spending most noticeably are European powers Germany and France.

This year, Germany met the 2% defense target for the first time since the early 1990s, a defense ministry spokesperson said in February. German ramped up its military spending in response to Russia’s 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine. According to NATO, Germany is gearing up to spend €90.5 billion ($97.2 billion) on defense this year.

The Netherlands, whose outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte is eyeing to become NATO’s next Secretary General, is also expected to fulfill the defense spending target.

Rutte is still missing approval from one country to get the job: Romania are yet to publicly back him. Like Rutte, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis is running to be the next NATO leader. But there is still time to iron out the vote, as Stoltenberg’s term ends in October. 

The new list of countries expected to make the minimum target includes Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Romania.