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FACT: Eastern Europeans so 'Worried' About Russia That They Spend Next to Nothing on Defense

Their mouths say one thing, their budgets another

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

What European leaders say:

NATO’s European members, especially the newest members in eastern Europe, incessantly fret about the threat that Vladimir Putin’s Russia poses to their countries and the continent. 

Estonian president Kersti Kaljulaid noted that “in 2008, they moved on Georgia . . . I am afraid now that the resolve of the Western countries may not hold in the case of Ukraine. We need to stand very firm against giving again a message to Putin that it will blow over.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel cited the impact of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, especially on the former Soviet satellite nations. She charged that Moscow had undermined European security in “words and deeds” by infringing on Ukraine’s borders and “profoundly disturbed” NATO’s eastern members who “therefore require the unambiguous back-up of the alliance.”

Edgars Rinkēvičs, Latvia’s minister of foreign affairswas even more specific. “We have to be prepared that ‘the little green men’ [disguised Russian military personnel] may try to create confusion, just like they did in Crimea,” he said.

What European leaders do:

At the 2006 NATO summit, there was a commitment that every country would spend a minimum of 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. At the time of the Ukraine crisis, other than the United States, only Britain and Greece (because of its worries about fellow NATO member Turkey) had met that goal. Since then, Estonia and Poland have done so—barely.

The other eastern European nations lag far behind. The other two Baltic republics, Lithuania and Latvia, spend 1.49 and 1.41 percent, respectively. Romania and Bulgaria devote 1.41 percent and 1.30 percent. Slovakia and Hungary spend a mere 1.12 percent and 1.02 percent, and the Czech Republic brings up the rear at 1.01 percent.

NATO’s leading countries don’t do significantly better. The figures for France and Italy are 1.79 and 1.11 percent, respectively. Perhaps most telling, democratic Europe’s leading economic power, Germany, spends a pathetic 1.20 percent.

Let's get this right.

The likes of Latvia will tell you that Putin is a Soviet revisionist imperialist just dying to gobble up the Baltics, so they're spending 1.41 percent of their GDP on defense.

Not 30 percent, not 20 percent, not 10 percent. Not even 5%.

What is their game really?

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