NATO 2022 data shows UK is the leading European force in defending the EU

Graham Charles Lear
6 min readMar 25


The UK dominates once again in the defence of the EU in 2022
Germany owes billions since Putin first invaded Ukraine.

On Monday, 21 Mar 2023, NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) released its latest annual report entitled “Defence expenditure of NATO countries (2014–2022)”. I have for years looked at the numbers and every year the UK comes out on top in Europe. Only the US spends more.

Once again the defence figures for 2022 from NATO put Brexit Britain on top, despite all the talk from the EU and countries such as Germany promising to do more.

Defence expenditure of European NATO members in 2022

1. Total expenditure

  1. UK: $67.7bn
  2. Germany: $61.0
  3. France: $52.4
  4. Italy: $30.4
  5. Poland: $17.1
  6. Netherlands: $15.7
  7. Spain: $14.9
  8. Turkey: $11.9
  9. Norway: $8.4

[Source: NATO defence expenditure data released 21 Mar 2023.]

Only seven EU countrys met NATO spending in 2022

Brexit Britain continues to defend the EU

In terms of financial commitment to the defence of Europe, the facts show that once again the United Kingdom is the leading military force among all European countries, spending $67.7bn last year.

This is almost $7bn more than Germany which has an economy 44% larger than the UK’s, and over $15bn more than Emmanuel Macron’s France.

When it comes to the heavy lifting, this is where the United Kingdom comes in. This is true figuratively and in practice.

For example in 2017 when Hurricane Irma hit the French colony of Guadeloupe, President Macron was forced to ask for help from the Royal Air Force. An RAF C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft flew to Evreux-Fauville Air Base west of Paris and collected 30 tonnes of equipment and supplies including a tipper truck, a digger, and a specialist bulldozer. The RAF aircraft then successfully delivered the urgently-needed supplies to the French colony.

The EU’s defence pretence

The EU has been talking big on defence for years. The bloc’s Commission has clear intentions to become a military power, as I have reported on numerous occasions over recent years. Rejoiners have always ridiculed any idea of “an EU army” but they simply haven’t researched and read the EU’s plans.

In the current NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, the EU has a europhile who tried more than once to take his native Norway into the EU, but the canny Norwegians would have none of it. So when the EU says they simply want to ‘work with’ NATO rather than replace it, Mr Stoltenberg is happy to go along with the pretence.

In reality, the EU is a very long way from being a credible military power. Yes, they are spending billions but so far there is little to show for it apart from glossy command and control headquarters and a large number of impressive-looking insignia for a variety of new EU bodies.

The simple fact is that Brexit Britain is defending the EU from its north-east flank down to the Mediterranean, and yet I am unaware of a single word of thanks from the EU Commission’s prodigious propaganda centre in Brussels.

Now let's look at Germany and the EUs NATO spending as a whole

NATO 2022 data shows why the EU should be very grateful to Brexit Britain

Let's look at defence spending since Putin first invaded Ukraine in 2014 and ask:

“Just how much do EU countries like Germany owe,
for what they have failed to spend on defence?”

Military expenditure by EU countries 2015–2022, compared with the UK, in £’s billions

Compared to what they should have spent based on the NATO minimum of 2% of GDP

  • UK £24.1
  • Greece £10.5
  • Poland £4.6
  • Estonia £0.2

Latvia : -£0.3

Lithuania -£0.4

Croatia -£0.9

Bulgaria -£1.2

Slovenia : -£3.0

Slovakia -£3.1

Romania -£3.0

Luxembourg -£6.5

Hungary -£6.2

Portugal -£8.7

Czech Republic -£11.1

Denmark -£15.8

France -£25.3

Belgium -£32.6

Netherlands -£37.1

Italy -£83.4

Spain -£86.9

Germany : -£152.2


[Source: NATO defence expenditure data released 21 Mar 2023. Dollars converted into pounds at £1=$1.223, per Bloomberg 25 Mar 2023.]

Since the 2014 NATO Summit the UK has been the only reliable European military power

In September 2014 at the Summit held in Wales, the NATO leaders agreed to a declaration in response to Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion and annexation of Crimea — part of the sovereign territory of Ukraine.

At that important Summit, it was agreed that all NATO member countries should spend a minimum of 2% of GDP on defence and that 20% of the defence expenditure should be on equipment.

The United Kingdom is the only country in Europe to have met both targets consistently since then.

Now for Germany

Germany has had eight years to hit the NATO target — what has it done?

In the eight years from 2015–2022, Germany has underspent on defence by $186.1bn, (approx £152.2bn GBP), according to the NATO figures analysed

I arrived at this figure by taking NATO’s official percentages of what each country spends on defence and multiplying this by each country’s GDP. I then compared this with what they should have spent if — like the UK — they were spending the NATO minimum target of 2% of their GDP.

Even France — the second-largest military power in Europe after the UK — has underspent by more than £25bn pounds. Meanwhile, the UK’s extra defence spend now stands at over £24bn.

Despite all of this, the EU continues to have pretensions of being a major military power

The European Defence Union is official EU policy

Even the EU now calls it “the European Army”

There is no longer any pretence from the EU — they are preparing their own army. This is no longer hidden.

Coat of arms,
EU Military Staff

“It took us a few weeks. And we decided it together, still at 28, and we did it…. Over this past year, our common [EU] defence has advanced more than in the previous 60 years.”

- Federica Mogherini, EU Commission Vice-President & de facto Defence & Foreign Secretary, Jun 2017

“The first missions under the EU flag were launched already back in 2003. Since then, 34 EU missions have operated on three continents.”

  • EU’s ‘European External Action Service’, 24 Aug 2018

Angela Merkel

“We need to be ready to redefine our decision-making and sometimes to waive unanimity… We need to create a European Security Council… We need to create a European Deployment Force with which Europe can act quickly… We should work on the vision one day to create a true European Army… Jean-Claude Juncker said it four years ago: ‘A common European army’ ”

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speech to EU Parliament, 13 Nov 2018

New EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

“Europe is forming an army. A united EU military is becoming a reality.”

– Ursula von der Leyen, former German Defence Minister and new EU Commission President, in her own article in the German press, 10 Jan 201

Is this some kind of joke?

They can not even spend what they agreed to spend in 2014

I first started analysing NATO’s numbers in 2015. Back then David Cameron was Prime Minister, Nick Clegg was Deputy PM, Jean-Claude Juncker was in charge in Brussels (although only partially so after long lunches, allegedly) and Angela Merkel had just unilaterally opened the EU’s borders to millions of migrants. The EU Referendum was then still a hope — for people who voted to leave the EU

When Putin illegally invaded Ukraine for the first time in 2014, this was a wake-up call for NATO. A sovereign European country had had part of its territory occupied and annexed. The response at the NATO Summit in 2014 was robust. The problem has been that whilst the UK has continued to live up to its commitments since that Summit, the rest of the EU has not.

Readers will have differing views on military policies over recent years. What counts here is what countries committed to, and what they have actually done, regardless of the rights and wrongs of the West’s policies. My analysis clearly shows once again that when it comes to actions rather than words, the EU is all talk and no (combat) trousers.

[ Sources: NATO | EU Commission | MoD ]



Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.