Military Spending in Europe

How much do European countries spend on their military?

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Map of the military spending in Europe as a percentage of GDP.

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The recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia, has sparked the discussion about whether the European NATO members spend enough on their military. NATO has set a non-binding target for countries to make sure their military spending is at least 2% of their GDP. As we can see on this map, many European countries don’t meet that requirement.

The biggest spender on their military, is Russia (4.08%). Ukraine is third with 3.23%. Greece is second and has one of the largest militaries in Europe. This mainly due to the relationship with Turkey and the large numbers of islands and waters that the Greeks have to patrol.

The other countries that spend more than 2% on their military, are mostly located in the eastern half of Europe. These are mostly countries bordering Russia (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland). In the western half of Europe, only the UK and Portugal meet the 2% target.

Micro-states excluded, Iceland is the only European country without a standing army. it is also the only NATO member without a standing army. Iceland is a NATO member due to its strategical location. The US provides for Iceland’s defence and even had a military base in Iceland until 2006.

Of the European countries that do have a standing army, Ireland spends the least. Due to it’s relatively safe location, it has less of a need to spend more on its military. The next country is quite surprising. Moldova has the third lowest military expenditure as a percentage of its GDP. Part of Moldova is occupied by separatist and Russian forces (Transnistria). Russia has also hinted at wanting to invade Moldova after Ukraine. Despite all the possible threats, Moldova has one of the lowest military expenditures in Europe.

How much a country spends on their military, doesn’t necessarily reflect the strength of the military. We have seen with Russia that corruption, low morale and outdated technology/equipment can severely decrease the quality of the military, despite high funding.

The data for this map, comes from SIPRI.


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