Additional information on the military spending of NATO countries
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a military alliance between national governments with its members including the United States, Canada and the majority of Western and Central European States. It constitutes the most powerful military alliance globally and includes a number of the world’s biggest military spenders. NATO also holds global partnerships with a number of non-North Atlantic states including Japan, Australia and New Zealand. An agreement referred to as the Partnership for Peace is also in place with Russia. Relations and the threat of conflict between Russia and NATO member states has often been the justification for the organizations existence and subsequent military spending by its members.
Following largely peaceful relations with Russia, the concentration of NATO’s military resources have been focused elsewhere. Interventions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo equated to the most meaningful actions of NATO in the decade following the end of the Cold War. Despite military spending being a constant figure of national budgets, the Middle Eastern conflicts of Afghanistan and Iraq saw a large rise in the defense spending of NATO countries. In particular defense spending by the United States rose dramatically between the years of 2001 to 2011, rising from $312 billion to 711 billion U.S. dollars. The degree of military intervention by most NATO countries in the Middle East being reduced in recent years has coincided with a reduction in military spending. Furthermore, the Great Recession placed a large financial strain on many NATO countries leading to the degree of public resources being spent on defense being called into question.
While global defense spending is on the rise, it appears that spending by the majority of NATO countries will continue to decrease unless threats to the sovereignty of member states increase. Increased defense spending by rising powers including China and Russia may lead to an increase in the perceived risk of threat among NATO member governments and in turn trigger a return to defense budget increases.