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WORLD NEWS | NATO to increase defense spending to help Ukraine, but the calculations are tricky.Just ask Luxembourg

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BRUSSELS, July 10 (AP) — When it comes to criticizing NATO members for not spending enough on defense, tiny Luxembourg is an easy target.

One of NATO’s wealthiest countries and regularly topping Europe’s economic growth charts, the grand duchy now spends 0.72 percent of its gross domestic product on its armed forces, according to the group’s estimates this year.

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That puts it at the top of the leaderboard for the 31-nation military alliance. Still, the figures are deceiving, even for other member states such as Germany.

Under commitments made after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, NATO allies agreed to halt spending cuts during the post-Cold War lull, boost state military budgets and move toward a goal of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense Goal forward. 2024.

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As that target date looms and Europe’s largest land war in decades rages over Ukraine, U.S. President Joe Biden and NATO leaders will commit to a two-day summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius on Tuesday. Set new spending goals.

“At the summit, the allies will set out an even more ambitious defense investment commitment to spend at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense each year,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday. A target date has not yet been set.

While the 2% figure still serves as a reference point, it is a volatile metric.

Economic growth fluctuates during booms and busts, while inflation can wreak havoc on profits. NATO estimates that Turkey, one of the group’s largest armed forces, will spend just 1.31% of GDP in 2023, compared with 1.91% before the war began.

Spending big is not the same as spending wisely. The correct level of spending on paper does not translate into sufficient and well-equipped troops being quickly dispatched to the field and maintained by efficient supply lines.

2% is also not directly related to any real security threat assessment. This goal was established in peacetime. Circumstances have changed, and the case of Luxembourg offers us useful lessons about what the guidelines can hide.

Questioned by U.S. and European lawmakers on budget priorities last month, Luxembourg Defense Minister François Bausch said that if the economic growth of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania matched that of the U.S., They will have to spend four to five times more than they do now to get to 2%. Luxembourg.

The three Baltic states, which are so geographically close to Russia and Ukraine and have historically been aware of the potential threat posed by their giant neighbors, will all spend just over 2% this year, according to NATO estimates. One of just 11 countries targeted. .

Sandwiched between France and Belgium, Luxembourg also faces demographic challenges. Of the approximately 630,000 passport holders, only 315,000 are Luxembourgers. Even fewer were between the ages of 18 and 40 (military service age).

The country’s army is about 1,000 strong. That’s small compared to the strength of some member states, but higher per capita than the number serving in the British Armed Forces, one of NATO’s most exemplary national armies.

Furthermore, Luxembourg has a very low unemployment rate. Relatively well-paying jobs abound. Why should you join?

“I want to increase the size of the army. We’re already looking at 200-300 soldiers, but it’s not going to be easy,” Bausch said.

On top of that, Luxembourg spent more than 16 percent of its defense budget last year on supporting Ukraine — a large chunk of which was ammunition. The government has not asked for the money to be repaid through a special EU fund set up to refund countries that helped Ukraine defend itself.

Prime Minister Xavier Bettel’s government has also met all of NATO’s planning requirements.

“We are meeting everything that is asked of us,” Bausch said. Luxembourg plans to double defense spending by 2028.

Another country meeting NATO’s planned goals is Germany – a model of European fiscal integrity that was often harshly criticized by former US President Donald Trump for failing to increase its military budget.

After Russia invaded Ukraine last year, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz made a sudden reversal, announcing that the government would spend an additional 100 billion euros ($109 billion) on defence, including the purchase of high-end U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets.

But that money barely counts toward its 2 percent target under NATO’s spending requirements. Equipment orders are not enough. Only when the contractor is finally paid does the money add up.

The Vilnius summit is unlikely to resolve NATO’s long-running budget problems, and the cajoling of allies by the United States, which in the Trump era is sometimes suspected of free-riding on partners such as Luxembourg or even Germany, is likely to continue.

“We cannot pass legislation requiring people to spend money. We are an intergovernmental coalition working towards a collective goal,” said a senior NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity, describing the latest thinking on NATO’s defense spending commitment. (Associated Press)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a syndicated news feed, the latest staff may not have modified or edited the body of content)


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