Europe's Military Freeloaders: The 17 Countries Spending The Least On defence

Germany Army

Photo: flickr user: isafmedia

The U.S. may be pulling back troops from Europe, but it doesn’t appear countries there are ready to pick up the slack.Countries in the region spend well below what the U.S. spends annually on defence, even as a percentage of the GDP.

And they’re still cutting spending in an effort to trim budgets in the face of a regional sovereign debt crisis. France and the UK have even agreed to share aircraft carriers.

We’ve taken a look at how military spending compares to GDP across the region, finding the European countries that might end up freeloading on the defence budgets of others.

For reference, the US spends 5.25% of its GDP on the military. Oman spends 11.40% of its GDP, the highest in the world.

Data is from the CIA World Factbook, via GlobalSecurity.org

Germany spends 1.5% of its GDP on defence

GDP: $2.815 Trillion

defence: $42.225 Billion

Germany, a member of the EU, contributes troops to NATO efforts including Afghanistan and Kosovo. The U.S. has more than 20 bases in the country.

Source: CIA World Factbook (via GlobalSecurity.org)

Albania spends 1.5% of its GDP on defence

GDP: $22.88 Billion

defence: $340.912 Million

Albania became a member of NATO in 2008 and contributes troops to peacekeeping efforts.

Source: CIA World Factbook (via GlobalSecurity.org)

The Czech Republic spends 1.5% of its GDP on defence

GDP: $253.1 Billion

defence: $3.695 Billion

A NATO member since 1999, the Czech Republic contributes troops to a variety of peacekeeping operations. The country was due to house a U.S. missile base until Obama scrapped the plan in 2009.

Source: CIA World Factbook (via GlobalSecurity.org)

Ukraine spends 1.4% of its GDP on defence

GDP: $289.3 Billion

defence: $4.05 Billion

Ukraine dropped plans to join NATO in 2010. The U.S. military is active in the Ukraine, training troops and performing military exercises.

Source: CIA World Factbook (via GlobalSecurity.org)

Denmark spends 1.3% of its GDP on defence

GDP: $197.5 Billion

defence: $2.567 Billion

A member of NATO, Denmark contributes troops to various efforts, including 750 to Afghanistan (dropping to 650 in 2012). Thule Air Base, operated by the U.S. Airforce, is in Greenland, within the Kingdom of Denmark.

Source: CIA World Factbook (via GlobalSecurity.org)

Belgium spends 1.3% of its GDP on defence

GDP: $383 Billion

defence: $4.979 Billion

NATO HQ is located in Brussels, Belgium. The central command post of NATO, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, are located Casteau, north of the Belgian city of Mons. Belgium contributes troops to various NATO efforts, including Afghanistan and Libya.

Source: CIA World Factbook (via GlobalSecurity.org)

Montenegro spends 1.21% of its GDP on defence

GDP: $6.59 Billion

defence: $80 Million

Montenegro is a partner of NATO and has hopes to join the organisation. However, Janes wrote earlier this year that the 'small Army of Montenegro (AoM) is a joint defence force that possesses little or no combat capability, is barely capable of minimal national security tasks such as border and coastal security and is unable to exercise effective national air policing.'

Source: CIA World Factbook (via GlobalSecurity.org)

Spain spends 1.2% of its GDP on defence

GDP: $1.359 Trillion

defence: $16.308 Billion

Spain is a member of NATO and has contributed troops to the Afghanistan war. Spain pulled out of Iraq in 2004 following the Madrid terrorism attacks.

Source: CIA World Factbook (via GlobalSecurity.org)

Estonia spends 1.2% of its GDP on defence

GDP: $23.71 Billion

defence: $284.52 Million

Estonia has been a member of NATO since 2004, but is more famous for getting embroiled in a cyber war and having a Russian spy in its ranks.

Source: CIA World Factbook (via GlobalSecurity.org)

Lithuania spends 1.2% of its GDP on defence

GDP: $55.17 Billion

defence: $662.040 Million

Lithuania is a member of NATO, and, along with the other Baltic states, it has sought assurances that NATO would support them should a conflict with Russia arise.

Source: CIA World Factbook (via GlobalSecurity.org)

Latvia spends 1.2% of its GDP on defence

GDP: $32.31 Billion

defence: $387.72 Million

Another Baltic state, Latvia is also a member of NATO. In 2010 the country auctioned off a former-Soviet military base to raise money.

Due to their limited resources, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia band together with NATO to protect their airspace.

Source: CIA World Factbook (via GlobalSecurity.org)

Switzerland spends 1% of its GDP on defence

GDP: $313.3 Billion

defence: $3.133 Billion

The Swiss Army does not take part in armed conflicts, but has appeared in peacekeeping operations. The country currently operates on a conscription model.

Source: CIA World Factbook (via GlobalSecurity.org)

Ireland spends 0.9% of its GDP on defence

GDP: $172.5 Billion

defence: $1.552 Billion

The Irish military has been involved in peacekeeping operations since 1958, including stints in countries such as the Congo, Cyprus, and Lebanon.

Source: CIA World Factbook (via GlobalSecurity.org)

Luxembourg spends 0.9% of its GDP on defence

GDP: $39.08 Billion

defence: $351.72 Million

The country has no navy or air force, and its army only has around 430 professional soldiers, about 340 enlisted recruits, and 110 civilians. It has contributed troops to various peacekeeping operations.

Source: CIA World Factbook (via GlobalSecurity.org)

Malta spends 0.7% of its GDP on defence

GDP: $9.8 Billion

defence: $69 Million

Malta has a very small military, and has mostly offered humanitarian support in the LIbyan crisis.

Iceland, Liechtenstein, The Vatican, San Marino and Monaco do not have militaries.

GDP: $12.09 Billion (Iceland), $4.16 Billion (Liechtenstein), $9.76 Million (Monaco)

Iceland the only member of NATO with no standing military, yet it has a small armed coast guard, air defence systems, and a small peacekeeping force. The U.S. military used to have a base on the island but withdrew in 2006.

Liechtenstein has no military. Its police force only has around 85 officers.

The Vatican has no miltiary. Military support is provided by Italy.

San Marino has no regular military force (ceremonial functions are peformed by volunteers). Military support is provided by Italy.

Monaco has no regular military force - The Palace Guard performs ceremonial duties and defence is the responsibility of France.

Source: CIA World Factbook (via GlobalSecurity.org)

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