Like many European NATO members, France noted that military support for Ukraine quickly exhausted weapons and munitions of the European armed forces. The local defense industries were unable to quickly replace the weapons and munitions. Russia had larger stockpiles, but even these were quickly exhausted, and Russia had few allies it could obtain weapons and munitions from. One of the best sources was North Korea. France is in better shape because they have no sanctions to worry about and defense industries that have been kept active producing for export customers. Defense exports were small quantities of weapons and munitions sold to many customers. The Ukraine War required massive quantities of munitions and weapons for the duration of the war. The length of the duration was unknown. France is seeking to adapt its defense industries to better deal with an unexpected “surge” situation.
Russia is another major arms exporter, one of the top five. When the invasion of Ukraine was ordered, many of senior Russian generals regarded the Ukraine invasion as a mistake and one that could tarnish Russia’s military reputation while also damaging the army and forcing budget cuts for the navy and air force in order to replace what was lost in Ukraine. By invading Ukraine anyway, the Russian government was spending money it doesn’t have. To make that possible, Russia has to diminish support for its navy and air force. The financial strain has been considerable. The Russian national budget increased by $80 billion (to $480 billion) since 2021, its defense budget has nearly doubled, going from $57 billion to $83 billion, and the budget for the national police and other internal security forces has gone from $47 billion to $77 billion. Before 2022 little of this was spent in Russian-occupied Ukraine, especially Donbas and Crimea. These two areas were illegally annexed and have growing problems with local security, not all caused by Ukrainians. Then came the invasion, which was taking over $10 billion a month out of the military budget. This defense spending growth was made possible by borrowed money. These loans had to be made at very high interest rates because the domestic and international financial industries considered Russia a bad credit risk because of the massive international sanctions and its military defeats in Ukraine.
The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine was not a surprise to many NATO nations near Russia. The 2014 Russian seizure of Crimea and half of two eastern provinces was seen as a prelude to something larger. The Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were the most rattled by the Ukraine crisis among NATO countries because of their borders with Russia, small size, and often issues with their large Russian minorities. Estonia, one of the very few NATO countries that reach the 2 percent GDP defense spending target, has decided to exceed it by 0.05 percent GDP in 2015. Lithuania, which spent just 0.9 percent of its GDP on defense in 2014, reached 1 percent in 2015, and has committed to increase it by 0.2 percent of GDP every year, until it reaches the recommended 2 percent GDP mark. Latvia, much like Lithuania, has decided on a quick expansion of its military, its defense spending rising from 0.78 percent GDP in 2014 to 1.11 percent GDP in 2015. Unfortunately, the significant increases in military spending of Baltic countries are not large in real terms. Their economies are small, and as such, the biggest military budget of those three, Lithuania's, is just barely above $500 million.
Poland, one of few countries taking the Ukraine crisis as seriously as the Baltics, spent $10.4 billion (1.95 percent of GDP) in 2014 and got it up to the required 2 percent of GDP in 2016, with a specific focus on procurement of modern equipment. Romania followed Poland's example, with its military spending rising from 1.4 percent in 2014 to 1.7 percent in 2015 and reached 2 percent in 2017.
It is different elsewhere in Central Europe. Bulgaria and Hungary, despite promises to increase their relatively small military budgets in 2015, actually reduced them as a portion of GDP share, by 0.15 percent and 0.04. Norway and Netherlands slightly increased their defense budgets, both of them reversing long running downwards trends.
France noted all of this, in part because they are the largest arms exporter in Europe and sees this new interest by many nations to obtain sufficient weapons and munitions to deal with another Ukraine.