Belgium ranks second-lowest in NATO defence spending for 2023

Belgium spent 1.1 per cent of GDP on defence in 2023, putting it at the bottom of the NATO rankings. Only Luxembourg scores lower, at 0.7 per cent.

The military alliance NATO demands an annual contribution of 2 per cent of GDP from all allies. An analysis of 25 European NATO members by the German research institute Ifo found that Belgium spent just over half of that (1.1 percent) on defence last year.

However, Defence minister Ludivine Dedonder announced in December that the country would increase this to 1.24 per cent next year. The aim is to reach the 2 per cent threshold by 2035, with an interim target of 1.57 per cent by 2030.

Of the 25 countries surveyed, only 10 met the required target. Poland leads the way with 3.9 per cent, followed by Greece (3 per cent) and Estonia (2.7 per cent). The other countries meeting the target are Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom. It is interesting to note that Finland, as the newest NATO member, is immediately among the countries contributing the most.

The United States alone, which was not included in the calculation, accounts for 70 per cent of NATO's total budget.

"Clear about our commitment"

At the NATO summit in Vilnius last July, the Allies agreed to spend at least two per cent of their GDP on defence each year. "Nobody has mentioned it because we are very clear about our commitment. That commitment is 100 per cent consistent with the conclusions here. We will meet the 2 per cent from 2035 and we will continue to do so," said Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo.

The PM stressed that it was normal for Belgium to take time to raise defence spending to 2 percent of GDP. "We are coming out of a 15-year period where there were only cuts in defence," he said.


Belgian Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder at the NATO headquarters in Brussels © PHOTO SIMON WOHLFAHRT / AFP

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