According to its Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, NATO is currently undergoing “the biggest overhaul of collective defense and deterrence since the Cold War” after the organization has emerged as the chief supporter of Ukraine in its defense effort against a Russian invasion. But even before war on the European continent became a reality again in 2022, tensions had been running high about the state of NATO's military infrastructure as most European nations had adopted a lackluster approach to defense spending in peace times. U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 brought the issue to the forefront once more as he criticized a number of NATO member states, especially Germany, for not meeting the 2-percent-of-GDP spending threshold agreed upon at the 2014 NATO summit in Wales.
Since then, a number of NATO members have upped their defense spending. According to data recently released by the organization, the number of NATO members which have reached or exceeded this level of spending was still only nine out of the 29 NATO members with armed forces. The list encompasses the U.S., the UK, Greece, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania and Slovakia, showing that Eastern European nations have potentially been more attuned to military threats in Europe arising again. Romania and France, which had also previously hit the 2-percent goal, stayed slightly below in 2022. The next closest to hitting the threshold were NATO's newest members, Montenegro and North Macedonia at 1.75 to 1.78 percent of GDP in defense spending, followed by Albania, Bulgaria and the Netherlands.
Despite recent gains, larger and wealthier NATO members stayed behind the goal in 2022 - often by a large margin. This includes Germany, Canada, Italy and Spain.