Belgian defence gets €1 billion boost

Belgian defence gets €1 billion boost
Belgian soldiers near tank. Credit: Belga

Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder confirmed that the country is set to ramp up defence spending by €1 billion, De Tijd reports.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been a wake-up call for NATO members that cutting back on defence is no longer a sensible policy, after Russian President Vladimir Putin proved that close economic ties alone aren't enough to prevent a war.

In addition, Dedonder has asked for further resources to develop cybersecurity in the Belgian army, given Russia's penchant for cyber attacks. Further to this, the Belgian army needs a general upgrade in stocks after years of cutting back on defence spending.

The US has called for Member States to increase defence spending to 2% of GDP, which many have been reluctant to do. Only a handful of EU countries achieved this goal, including the Baltics, France and Poland.

Falling short of NATO requirements

Currently, Belgium spends 1.12% of GDP on defence, with only Luxembourg spending less, according to NATO figures in 2020. Yet is unclear the extent to which an extra billion will make a difference for the Belgian army. Dedonder had previously called for €10 billion additional military spending. This amount would take Belgium's defence spending up to 1.54% of GDP, the average spending of non-nuclear NATO members.

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By contrast, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced in February that Germany would invest €100 billion in defence and get past the 2% threshold.

NATO member states such as Denmark pledged to increase their defence budget to 2% in 2033. Meanwhile, polling in neutral countries Sweden and Finland, which shares the EU's longest land border with Russia, suggest for the first time ever that a majority of Swedes and Finns support NATO membership.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo can let world leaders know that Belgium hears NATO's call to increase defence spending at NATO's summit in Brussels on Thursday. Yet it remains unclear as to what that is worth.

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