Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is approaching its 100th day with intense fighting showing no signs of abating. The conflict has highlighted the importance of NATO unity and military strength, with other Eastern European countries fearing they could also be targeted by Russia. However, despite years of increasingly hostile acts by Russia, shocking data suggests that NATO has in fact let its guard down. The figures reveal how the alliance has drastically reduced its forces, with major players such as the UK, Germany, Italy, France and the US all losing troops.
NATO data shows that since 1990, Germany and Italy have reduced their troops by 65%, more than any other country, with France not far behind, having reduced its personnel contribution by 62% .
Spain more than halved its force size, losing 53% of its soldiers, while the United Kingdom reduced its force size by 49% and the United States by 38%.
Reports, however, suggest that NATO countries are looking for ways to build up their forces in response to the situation in Ukraine.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he intended to station more forces in the eastern areas of alliance territory, countries like Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
In addition, air and naval forces under NATO command, as well as cyber defense and space capabilities, will also be strengthened.
In recent years, some NATO countries have been accused of shirking their defense spending responsibilities.
Members of the alliance are supposed to spend 2% of their respective GDPs on defence, but many European countries have failed to do so in recent years.
But things are now likely to change, perhaps best exemplified by Germany – previously accused of cowering to help Ukraine – after the country’s ruling coalition struck a deal to boost defense spending, a shift historical.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said “it was the right response to the turning point that began with Russia’s attack on Ukraine”.
He added: “The German Bundeswehr will be strengthened.
“It will be able to fulfill its defense mission better than ever, and it will be able to contribute to NATO so that we can defend ourselves at all times against external attacks.
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Mr Scholz has overseen what amounts to a revolution in German defense policy – three days after the invasion of Ukraine he announced that Germany would commit 100bn euros (£85bn) to a special fund for its army and would increase its defense spending above 2% of GDP.
Speaking this week, he said: “This will help strengthen the security of Germany and Europe. This is the right response to the turning point that began with Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
There is also pressure on the UK to follow suit and increase defense spending.
Last month, members of the 1922 backbench defense committee said the government should reassess its planned cuts to the size of the armed forces.
Committee chairman and former army officer John Baron said: “Across Conservative backbenchers there is a broad consensus that the Russian invasion of Ukraine requires an increase in defense spending alongside a broad reassessment of manpower and capabilities.
“In particular, the report concludes that there should be a moratorium on defense cuts until this reassessment exercise is complete.”
In 2020 the government pledged to spend a further £24billion on defense over the next five years, but the committee said there was ‘still substantial room for further spending, as befits to what many see as the start of the new cold war”.
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It was also reported that Defense Secretary Ben Wallace was pressuring Chancellor Rishi Sunak to grant him more funds.
Speaking at the National Army Museum in Chelsea, Mr Wallace also appeared to be calling directly for increased defense spending.
He said: “I’ve always said that as a threat changes, so should our funding.
“It’s no different to other parts of government, if the pressure on the NHS increases, that translates into money. If the threat changes, then it should.
“If it goes down, be prepared for what you wish for, because if the threat goes down, maybe defense spending. So I think it’s up to me to present a case on the threat and what we have to do to counter it.
“Then it’s a discussion about the government, about its appetite. For decades defense spending has been under threat for a number of things, but a common risk has been that the government’s appetite has never matched his budget. He did more than he can afford.”