Slovakian Minister of Defence, Martin Glváč, during the visit of the NATO Secretary General – Jens Stoltenberg, announced that Bratislava is willing to increase the defence spending up to the level of 1.6% of GDP until 2020. According to the Slovakian MoD, the level achieved this year, thanks to the additional funds, reached the amount of 1.1% of GDP.
The fact that the declarations made by the Minister of Defence were fulfilled may mean that the overall increase would exceed 50%. Back in 2014, the defence spending was shaped at the level of only 1.0% of GDP. The increase of the defence spending (in relation to the GDP) is further amplified by the effect of the economic growth (which is estimated by the Commission to reach the level of 3.0 and 3.4% respectively for years 2015 and 2016).
Most probably, realizing what the nature of the threat posed by the earlier cuts was, the Slovak authorities decided to take some steps, the aim of which is to raise the level of the combat capabilities possessed by the Armed Forces. The modernization initiatives which are being planned or realized include procurement of the Black Hawk multi-role helicopters and acquisition of the Polish-Slovak Scipio APC’s. It is also expected that new multi-role fighters and three-dimensional ground-based radars are going to be acquired, among other plans.
When it comes to the promises made by the Slovak Ministry of Defence, one may also expect that the combat potential of the Armed Forces is also going to be increased in a quantitative dimension. This is quite important since both the Ukrainian crisis, as well as the inflow if the immigrants, exposed a need to be in possession of military potential which would make it possible to conduct operations within the territory of the state, not only in case of the countries that share their border with Russia (see the cases of Hungary or Austria).
The initial decisions regarding the increased defence spending in the cases of Czech Republic and Hungary have already been made. It is said that the quantitative potential of the armed forces is going to be bolstered, probably through increased level of completeness of the existing elements, which constitutes a peculiar novelty, taking into account the cuts that had been implemented during the preceding years.
Of course, the delays cannot be neutralized immediately, and the situation in which the V4 countries which are not sharing their borders with Russia (including Slovakia), do not have armed forces with a high potential at their disposal, is going to last for a few upcoming years This is related both to the quantitative, as well as to the qualitative dimension of the potential.
Each of the V4 group states has two general military brigades at their disposal. However, the quantity of the possessed supersonic combat jets is smaller, than the quantity of the F-16 fighters serving in the Polish Air Force. Despite the significant cuts within the scope of the quantitative dimension (much deeper than in case of the Polish Army, after 1989), older types of armament are still being used, such as the T-72M1 tanks in case of Slovakia and Hungary, or Kub (NATO Codename: Gainful) SAM systems.
Nonetheless, both the gradual expansion of the combat capabilities, as well as participation in the NATO operations (Czech contribution to the VJTF element in 2015) may be considered as moves in the right direction. Prospectively, the above may contribute to increased potential for protecting the stability of Mid-Eastern Europe.
Poland, at the moment, has the largest defence budget at its disposal, amongst the V4 Group nations, both in absolute quantities, as well as within the scope of GDP percentage formed by the defence spending. However, as a state which faces a potential threat of conventional aggression, Poland should still increase the defence spending.
In order to continue and accelerate the modernization process related to the operational forces and, simultaneously, in order to reconstruct the reserves and territorial defence systems, it would be required to increase the military spending above the level of 2% of GDP. This should not be a threat for the stability of the public funds, since a similar situation is experienced this year, when one takes the F-16 instalments into account – in total, 2.27% of GDP is used to cover the defence expenditures.
At the same time, increasing the defence expenditure above the level defined by NATO, not only for the states located at the border of the alliance, would constitute a strong and required signal for the remaining allies. It is also worth to note the fact that expansion of the scope, within which the V4 Group armies are modernized, constitutes a chance for the Polish armament industry. The above is exemplified by the process of joint development of the Scipio APC for the Slovakian Army.