European States Increase Their Defense Budget And The Trend Does Not Change In a Pandemic

The data leaves no doubt. In the midst of an economic crisis and a pandemic, the spending that states spend on defense only increases. According to SIPRI, in 2019 world military spending reached a record figure of 1.77 billion euros and, while waiting to know the consolidated data of last year, by 2021 the consulting firm Deloitte predicts that there will be an increase of 2.8%, to reach two years later at 1.94.

The same is happening in relation to the world arms trade, given that in the 2014-2019 period there was an increase in sales transactions of 5.5% compared to the 2010-2014 five-year period, with the United States clearly leading the way. main seller, Spain occupying the seventh place and Saudi Arabia positioned as the first importer. In 2019, the one hundred largest companies in the sector, of which 41 are from the United States, 15 from European Union (EU) countries, 10 British and 8 Chinese, had a total turnover of 483.8 billion euros, 7.4% more than a the previous year.

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This is a dynamic in which the whole of the EU also fits. In 2019, of the 26 members of the European Defense Agency, Denmark is the only one that is not integrated, there were 23 who increased their spending in this field, reaching a total of 186,000 million euros. Of this expenditure, 11,281 of them would be from Spain, following NATO criteria. Not only is it a record figure, but it represents the consolidation of an upward trend that began in 2015, reversing a downward record of the previous ten years. That figure represented a 5% rise compared to that registered a year earlier and is equivalent to 1.4% of the combined GDP of the 26.

One of the factors that have most driven this upward trend is the commitment made at the 2014 NATO summit, where they agreed to reach 2% of the GDP of each dedicated to defense in ten years, 20 of the Twenty-seven are members of The alliance. Added to this is both the growing perception that the United States is no longer a reliable ally (Angela Merkel dixit), as well as the threatening assertiveness of Vladimir Putin, especially after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Brexit – although it is the British who are the that they are going to lose the most, it is obvious that the EU also loses with its exit – and the progressive realization that the depth of the crisis makes it impossible for any single State to meet its needs in this field.

In political terms, this impulse has been taking shape, starting with the approval of the EU Global Strategy in June 2016, in the search for a strategic autonomy that is still a long way off. That aspiration has been reflected in the statements of the French President, Emmanuel Macron, referring to the brain death of NATO and the need to aspire to the strategic sovereignty of the Union, of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, highlighting the geopolitical nature of his team, and of the EU’s high representative for foreign and security policy, Josep Borrell, stating that the EU should stop being the playing field and become a player capable of using the language of power. These are indications of the greater ambition of the EU to provide itself with its own voice on the international stage, although internal discrepancies are still notable among the so-called Atlanticists, basically the eastern countries, who prefer to continue to count on NATO as their main coverage security, and the Europeanists, with France at the forefront, more interested in enhancing the role of the Union in all areas.

The EU continues to take steps, including errors, to complete the process of political union and become a global player. In the diplomatic field, it has just been ten years since the start of the European External Action Service, at the same time that an industrial base for defense is taking shape, the aforementioned Agency, some organs of planning and direction of operations, although there is still no Strategic Headquarters, operational units, although the Combat Groups, approved in 2005, They have not been used in any of the more than thirty operations launched so far, and even specific funds in this area, such as the European Defense Fund, endowed with 13,000 million euros for the period 2021-2027. These are controversial measures, which some see as an unequivocal sign of outdated militarism, but which for others are realistic imperatives in the defense of their own interests. Borrell’s fiasco in his recent visit to Moscow is a good example of the risk that is run when words are not backed by a will and a real capacity to face the slaps, even if they are only diplomatic.

It makes sense, of course, to bet on autonomy to defend the interests of a Union that is considered, with all its shortcomings, the most exclusive and safest club on the planet. And that includes having, as a last resort, a credible defense system. But it also has it, and even more so in the middle of a systemic crisis like the one we are suffering, attending to the social needs of an increasingly vulnerable and frustrated population. The key, as always, is deciding the proper weighting between finite means to meet infinite needs. Hopefully we know how to do it.

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