British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “gift” to NATO as the war in Ukraine has made many alliance members make plans to increase military spending.
Wallace made the comments at the Warsaw Security Forum, a two-day conference that started on Tuesday. According to The Associated Press, Wallace said that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, European leaders became complacent and that Putin has become “in a sense, a gift to NATO.”
Wallace said Putin serves as a “pantomime villain” who reminded Europe that there is “really is somebody out there who really, really wants to not only challenge us but wants to inflict violence.”
For years, NATO has been pushing its European members to increase their military spending to at least 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP), a goal many alliance members did not meet. But since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, NATO countries are announcing plans to invest more in their militaries.
Wallace said there is a consensus among European leaders that they have not spent enough on their armed forces. “On the surface our militaries can boast numbers,” he said. “But below that bonnet, we have not enough infrastructure, not enough spare parts, not enough personnel, not enough modern weaponry, not enough weapon stocks. That’s all coming home to roost, and we’re going to have to deal with that. And that is going to cost money.”
Britain has announced a plan to increase its military spending to 3% of its GDP over the next few years. Germany’s government recently announced a plan to spend $107 billion over the next five years to bring the country’s military spending to over 2% of its GDP.
US and other Western arms makers are set to cash in as European countries are increasing their military spending. Many former Soviet states are looking to phase out their Russian-made equipment for NATO armaments, and the Biden administration is handing out new military aid that can be used to purchase US weapons.