For the third time in a decade, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization welcomed a new member this year. On April 4, 2023, Finland became the 31st member of the NATO alliance, following North Macedonia in 2020 and Montenegro in 2017. Though Finland has long cooperated with NATO, its policy of non-military alignment precluded its joining the alliance. That all changed, however, with Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Only three months after the invasion began, Finland submitted a formal letter requesting accession to NATO, and less than a year later, the request was granted. Originally formed in 1949 as a check against Soviet expansion in the post-World War II era, the NATO alliance has attained heightened relevance in this new era of Russian expansion aspirations. (Here is a look at Russia’s 20 biggest bombs.)
Ultimately, NATO is a collective defense alliance, the members of which are bound by Article 5 of the founding treaty to come to one another’s defensive aid. And because deterrence against foreign hostility is at the core of the treaty, military readiness is the principal asset NATO members bring to the alliance. In keeping with this logic, NATO Defense Ministers agreed in 2006 to a guideline stipulating that alliance members commit to spend a minimum of 2% of their annual GDP. Though over a decade and a half has passed since the agreement, military spending in most NATO countries falls short of the minimum stipulated.
Using data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed military spending for each of the 31 NATO member states. Countries are ranked by 2022 military spending as a share of GDP. Supplementary data on military spending in current U.S. dollars for 2022 is also from SIPRI, while 2021 population data is from the World Bank.
Though a founding member of NATO, Iceland is the only country without a standing military and spends little on defense beyond its Coast Guard. Among the remaining countries, military spending ranges from 0.7% of GDP in Luxembourg to 3.7% in Greece.
While Greece has the largest military budget as compared to its GDP of any NATO member, no country – NATO member or not – spends more than the U.S. on its military, in dollar terms. American military spending topped $876 billion 2022, more than double the spending of all other NATO countries combined. The U.S. military spending amounted to 3.5% of its GDP, the second largest share among NATO allies. The U.S. also has the world’s largest economy – roughly equal to the GDPs of all other member countries combined. (Here is a look at the 35 billion-dollar weapons in the 2024 U.S. military budget.)
Click here to see how much each NATO country spends on their military.
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