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16th Apr 2021

Poland and Lithuania top EU defence budget hikes

  • Poland is set to exceed Nato's 2 percent target on defence spending (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Poland and Lithuania top EU defence budget hikes in 2015, as conflict in Ukraine continues to foment instability.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) in a report out Monday (13 April) says Poland will increase its defence budget by 20 percent and Lithuania by 50 percent for this year alone.

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Sipri programme director Sam Perlo-Freeman says the budget increases are, for the most part, a response to the war in Ukraine.

In a statement, he noted that the crisis has “fundamentally altered the security situation in Europe”.

He said the impact on military spending has increased in countries that border Russia.

“Elsewhere, austerity remains the main driver of downward spending trends”, he said in a statement, in reference to a drop registered in Western Europe.

The drop has irritated Nato because alliance members had previously committed to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defence. But so far, only Estonia, Greece, the UK and the US have met the target.

Last month, Nato’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg told deputies in the European Parliament that defence spending across the European allies has dropped collectively by some 3 percent in 2014.

“It is not possible to get more out of less indefinitely,” he said. He noted that while Russia is being more assertive, it still poses no imminent threat to allies.

According to Sipri, the Kremlin increased last year’s budget by 8.1 percent to €79 billion as part of a larger overall plan to re-arm 70 percent of the forces with new equipment by 2020.

Poland’s budget hike is moving along similar lines.

The Polish government in 2013 put in place a 10-year €33 billion investment plan to modernise its military.

The new inventory is set to include drones, air and missile defence systems, combat helicopters, tanks, cruise missiles, naval vessels, and coastal defence systems for the Baltic sea.

Sipri notes the cruise missiles were ordered from the Americans and before the Russian annexation of Crimea.

Poland also stands out because, unlike its Western and central European counterparts, it is also likely to exceed Nato’s 2 percent commitment this year.

Poland will spend €9.3 billion in 2015 or about 2.1 percent of its GDP.

Lithuania, which joined Nato along with Estonia and Latvia in 2004, plans on increasing its military defence by 50 percent to spending €400 million.

Budget hikes are also set for Estonia (7.3 percent) and Latvia (14.9 percent).

Estonian President Toomas Ilves told the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper over the weekend that he wants more Nato troops stationed in the Baltic country.

He said a larger contingent of Nato troops in Estonia is needed to ward off Russian aggression.

"One hundred and fifty soldiers is not a lot, so we do think that further stationing of troops at a higher number is only reasonable," he said.

Nordic pact heightens tension with Russia

The Kremlin says a new Nordic defence pact is “directed against Russia” and amounts to a “confrontational approach” on the Ukraine crisis.

Lithuania's odd couple keeps nation guessing

The new prime minister Saulius Skvernelis and his leader from the Peasants and Greens party Ramunas Karbauskis were the suprise winners of last month's elections. But what they want to do is still unclear.

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Ukraine has invited EU foreign relations chief Josep Borrell to visit its front line with Russia, in what one EU diplomat said would be his "best revenge" for his recent humiliation in Moscow.

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