UK defence spending as a share of national income fell last year compared with 2021 despite Russia’s war in Ukraine, new figures released by NATO have revealed.
In total, only seven countries – including Britain – met a minimum threshold of allocating at least 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) to their armed forces in 2022, down by one nation from the previous year.
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary general, said: “The pace we have when it comes to increased defence spending is not high enough. So, my message to allies is that I welcome what they’ve done, but they need to speed up, they need to deliver more.
“In a more dangerous world, we need to invest more in defence.”
He was speaking at a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels to mark the release of an annual report, which included the latest defence expenditure numbers.
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For the UK, they showed that defence spending in 2022 was estimated to have been 2.16% of GDP compared with an estimated 2.25% the previous year.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last week said defence spending would hit 2.25% by 2025 as he announced an additional £5bn for the armed forces over the next two years.
He also set an aspiration to increase the level to 2.5% but without committing to a timeframe.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt was similarly non-committal in his spring budget, saying it would happen “as soon as fiscal and economic circumstances allow”.
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£11bn to be added to defence budget Despite the drop in the GDP share, the UK remains one of a minority of nations within the 30-strong alliance that is meeting the NATO minimum spending pledge.
Mr Stoltenberg said the alliance had hoped for two more allies to cross that 2% threshold but said their failure to do so was because GDP had grown faster than expected.
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He did not specify which countries he was referring to.
Allies have increased overall defence spending for the eighth consecutive year but the NATO chief added: “It is obvious that we need to do more and we need to do it faster.”