Italy has acknowledged that it will not be able to meet the NATO requirement of boosting its military spending to 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) by 2024. In a recent meeting with Italian lawmakers in Rome, Defense Minister Guido Crosetto admitted that the country is unlikely to achieve this target within the next five years. This news comes amidst concerns about the country’s defense spending and its ability to meet international obligations.
According to a NATO estimate, Italy’s defense spending this year will equate to 1.46% of the country’s GDP. However, this ratio is expected to drop to 1.38% next year and to 1.26% in 2025, despite an increase in defense spending. Crosetto told lawmakers that meeting the 2% target by 2024 will be “impossible” and will remain “difficult for 2028 as well.” He highlighted that Italy is “far from 2%, very far.”
The Defense Minister also raised concerns about NATO setting unrealistic financial objectives. He emphasized that Italy won’t be able to increase its military spending as required unless the defense budget is excluded from EU fiscal constraints.
The issue of military spending has been a source of tension within the European Union (EU) and NATO. In June, Crosetto warned that unless the inconsistency between the responsibility to strengthen security and the public finance restrictions imposed by the EU is resolved, it will be challenging to reach the 2% minimum threshold envisaged by NATO within a reasonable timeframe.
The commitment to increase defense spending is not unique to Italy. In 2014, members of the Western military bloc agreed to target defense spending equivalent to 2% of each country’s GDP by 2024. However, a new agreement reached in July states that the 2% threshold will become a minimum requirement, rather than just a goal. Despite this, only 11 of the 31 current NATO members are projected to reach the target this year, reflecting broader challenges across the alliance.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has also emphasized the importance of respecting the country’s spending commitments to protect national sovereignty and credibility. She stated that freedom comes with a price and that failing to defend oneself would result in others doing it at a cost. Meloni cautioned that relying on others to defend the country’s interests could result in the imposition of foreign interests, which may not align with Italy’s priorities.
Italy’s acknowledgment of its inability to meet the 2% military spending goal highlights the broader challenges facing NATO members as they seek to strengthen their defense capabilities. The issue also underscores the complex financial and political dynamics at play within both NATO and the EU, as member states navigate competing priorities and objectives. As Italy grapples with its defense spending commitments, it remains to be seen how other NATO members will address similar challenges as they work towards meeting the alliance’s military spending targets.