February 7, 2008:
NATO released its
annual report on defense expenditures. Nothing much has changed. Most NATO
members spend about 1.5 percent of GDP on defense. At the high end we have the
U.S., which spends four percent. Several nations spend more than two percent.
These include France (2.4 percent), Bulgaria (2.3), Greece (2.8), Turkey (2.7)
and Britain (2.3). Greece and Turkey
have high spending because they have not yet completely gotten over a war they
fought with each other 90 years ago. French and British spending is high
because these two nations have nuclear weapons and still maintain strategic
intervention forces that can be deployed around the world. Bulgarian spending
is still high for traditional reasons (it's in a rough neighborhood) and
because the troops are often deployed on peacekeeping missions throughout the
world. Bulgaria is also eliminating conscription, which will mean all the
troops will require a raise, in order to remain competitive with the civilian
Most NATO nations cut their defense
spending (as a percentage of GDP), by 30-40 percent after the Cold War ended.
These nations also reorganized their forces, putting more emphasis on providing
jobs for their citizens, and less on maintaining military capability. As a
result, combat capability of most NATO nations has fallen by more than half
since the end of the Cold War. Now that peacekeeping has become popular, many
NATO nations are struggling with the need to spend more on the troops, before
sending them off on these humanitarian missions.