Written by Manel Bernadó
European states face a complicated winter. The tide seems to have changed in Ukraine, but the conflict is far from over. Energy prices keep rising and colder months anticipate an energy crisis that will force governments in Europe to make difficult decisions. In this context many European countries are updating their defence budgets, reflecting the new strategic environment they face.
In 2023 France will almost double the year-on-year increase in its defence budget. Next year’s budget will increase to around €3 billion (7.4%), almost double the €1.7 billion annual increase foreseen in the budgetary plan for the 2019-2025 period. Under a narrative of entering a phase of ‘war economy’ (Machi, 2022a), the nearly €40 billion budget is designed to reinforce France’s hard security capabilities, replenish stocks after donations made to Ukraine in the war efforts against Russia and foster the development of the French and overall European defence industry. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has underlined the need to maintain sufficient equipment and ammunition stocks whilst retaining the capability to produce and deliver these to the frontlines in wars of attrition. Relevant acquisitions to be funded by the 2023 budget include 420 Serval light armoured vehicles, 22 armoured vehicles, 42 Rafale fighter jets, 22 next-gen multirole helicopters and 3 anti-UAS systems (Machi, 2022b). The budget also includes a programme to develop exploratory capacities of the deep seabed following its Seabed Warfare Strategy (Vavasseur, 2022).
On the other side of the English Channel the United Kingdom has pledged to double its defence spending to £100 billion by 2030, amounting to 3% of the country’s GDP (Sabbagh, 2022). Besides reversing the planned reduction of the UK Army by around 10,000 personnel, the funds will be devoted to strengthening the Army’s artillery systems and its anti-drone and intelligence capabilities (Ryan, 2022).
In the Baltic, Lithuania follows the same trend, further expanding its defence budget by €148 million for the current year and raising its defence spending to 2.52% of its GDP (Adamowski 2022; Savage & Popescu, 2022). Amongst other capabilities, the additional funds will be devoted to the acquisition of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems or HIMARS, US-made Oshkosh JLTV armoured vehicles and Switchblade combat UAVs.
Overall, the war in Ukraine has prompted European states to boost their commitments for increased defence spending in order to adapt to the new threats they face. Attention needs to be paid to ensuring that these increased efforts are translated into the acquisition of the capabilities needed to deter and defend Europe’s Eastern flank.
Adamowski, Jaroslaw (2022). Lithuania boosts defense budget to buy Switchblade drones. C4ISRNet. Retrieved from: https://www.c4isrnet.com/unmanned/2022/09/29/lithuania-boosts-defense-budget-to-buy-switchblade-drones/
Machi, Vivienne (2022a). Macron petitions Europe to support its own defense industry amid new ‘war economy’. Defense News. Retrieved from: https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/eurosatory/2022/06/13/macron-petitions-europe-to-support-its-own-defense-industry-amid-new-war-economy/
Machi, Vivienne (2022b). French 2023 defense budget adds $3 billion to fund ‘war economy’. Defense News. Retrieved from: https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2022/09/28/french-2023-defense-budget-adds-3-billion-to-fund-war-economy/?utm_source=sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dfn-dnr
Ryan, Janelle (2022). France and the United Kingdom increase military spending. Europe at a crossroads. France News. Retrieved from: https://francetv.space/france-and-the-united-kingdom-increase-military-spending-europe-at-the-crossroads/
Sabbagh, Dan (2022). UK defence spending to double to £100bn by 2030, says minister. The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/sep/25/uk-defence-spending-to-double-to-100m-by-2030-says-minister
Savage, Olivia & Popescu, Ana-Roxana (2022). Lithuania to increase defence spending to 2.52% of GDP from 2022. Janes. Retrieved from: https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/lithuania-to-increase-defence-spending-to-252-of-gdp-from-2022
Vavasseur, Xavier (2022). France Unveils New Seabed Warfare Strategy. Naval News. Retrieved from: https://www.navalnews.com/naval-news/2022/02/france-unveils-new-seabed-warfare-strategy/