NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg provided an explanation as to why the North Atlantic Alliance was continuing to ramp up its defence spending even though the combined spending was already an estimated 20 times higher than that of Russia.
“When it comes to these figures and numbers, we are an effective alliance and we have effective armies, but the cost level is much higher, reflecting just a higher standard of living,” Stoltenberg said, speaking at a press conference in Brussels on Tuesday.
“If you compare salaries and costs across NATO allies and Russia, of course their [NATO’s] cost levels are higher. And therefore, when you compare these budgets at market prices, and common currencies, then you get those conclusions you are referring to, but that doesn’t reflect less efficiency. But it reflects, to a large extent, differences in cost levels,” the secretary general added.
According to Stoltenberg, the NATO alliance will continue to “invest as much as needed to make sure that we have credible deterrence and defence.”
The NATO chief’s remarks follow comments he made late last month, where he explained that although the alliance already spent over $1 trillion on defence in 2018, and was planning to spend an additional $100 billion in 2020, the alliance needed to “keep up our efforts” to increase budgets further still, including by assuring that all members committed the necessary 2 percent of GDP or more to defence.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia could actually afford to cut its own defence spending, since the military had already used the additional spending outlays committed in previous years to engage in a comprehensive modernization programme, which recently passed its peak. Putin also commented on the need to reach “absolute transparency” when it comes to defence spending to avoid waste or corruption.
Last month, in an interview with Middle Eastern media, Putin said that even though Russia was only spending $48 billion on defence, and ranked seventh in the world, Moscow enjoyed “unmatched military capabilities” in a number of areas thanks to “focused research on priority areas” by Russia’s military industrial complex. Putin also emphasised in the interview that notwithstanding NATO’s spending and the US’s recent move to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), Moscow would “not be dragged into exorbitant budget spending games” with the West.
Earlier this year, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute think tank calculated NATO’s spending to have amounted to over $1 trillion in 2018, with seven of the alliance’s members listed among the top 15 spenders, and Russian spending estimated to amount to some $61.4 billion during the same period.