new spending record in 2021 in Europe (214 billion euros)

The war in Ukraine has absolutely nothing to do with it. However, the defense spending of the 26 European member countries of the European Defense Agency (EDA) exceeded the 200 billion euro mark for the first time in 2021. They reached exactly 214 billion euros of spending, according to the EDA’s annual report for 2021, which will come… at the end of 2022. This is a growth of 6% compared to the expenditure recorded in 2020, ie the highest annual growth rate since the rebound began in 2015 after the very low point in 2014 (163 billion ). Therefore, this is the seventh consecutive increase in defense spending.

Europe lags behind in defense spending

Despite this new increase, defense spending is rising more slowly than GDP growth in Europe. They still correspond to 1.5% of the GDP of the 26 EDA member states. Similar to 2020 (1.4% in 2019) but far from the United States (3.5%) and Russia (3.7%), China is close to European countries (1.6%). The United States is the country with the most defense spending in 2021 (686 billion euros), followed by China (241 billion euros), the 26 EDA member states (214 billion euros) and, finally, Russia (56 billion euros ). ).

Lhe EDA Member States will have “It is still necessary to spend an additional 68 billion euros to reach the guideline of allocating 2% of GDP to defense”AED wrote in its report. Finland, Greece and Slovenia were the three countries that increased their defense spending the most, by 42%, 33% and 27% respectively. Meanwhile, Italy has invested four billion euros more in its defense equipment. In 2021, 18 EDA member states increased their defense spending, six of them by at least 10% while eight others lowered it (15% for the largest reduction).

Increased equipment costs

The EDA also found that 26 European states are increasing their investments in the purchase of arms and in preparing for the future to equip their armies (a record amount of 52 billion euros (27 billion in 2014 ), including 43 billion for arms purchases and 9 billion euros for R&D or Research and Development). That’s an increase of 16% compared to 2020. These investment expenditures represent 24% of total defense spending. A new record level. Finally, 19 Member States reached the 20% defense investment threshold in 2021, with only one allocating less than 10% of total defense spending to defense investments.

“Continued increases in defense investment are necessary to equip European armies with high-end capabilities and fill long-standing capability gaps”the EDA mentioned in its report.

In 2021, defense Research and Technology (R&T) spending reached €3.6 billion, marking a massive growth of 41% compared to 2020 (+€1 billion). Germany and France account for more than 80% of total defense R&T spending. Compared to the previous low level of spending reached in 2016 (1.3 billion euros), defense R&T spending has almost tripled. To reach the 2% R&T threshold, Member States need to spend an additional €725 million.

An autonomy that must be strengthened

It is unfortunate that AED does not provide data detailing the origin of the equipment purchased. However, the Agency seems to regret that spending on joint European programs will not exceed 18% of total defense equipment purchases. And this despite an increase from 11% in 2020. “Too little is being spent on cooperationestimated the director of AED, Josep Borrell, quoted in the press release of AED. As Member States increase their defense spending, cooperation must now be the norm. (…) Spending alone is not enough, we have to do better, and that means doing it together. This is the only way to effectively equip Europe’s armed forces for future challenges”.

Within the framework of permanent structured cooperation (CSP), European countries have nevertheless committed to assign 35% of their purchases to European programs carried out in cooperation. A promise that sticks can not be reached ” and that” would require almost double the current investment in this area” to reach a value of 15.1 billion euros. In 2021, Member States allocated “a record amount” 7.9 billion euros for joint projects in Europe. This is almost double compared to the 4.1 billion euros recorded in 2020.