Europe braces for threat of war while supporting Ukraine

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk makes a press statement at the German Chancellery. Christoph Soeder/dpa
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk makes a press statement at the German Chancellery. Christoph Soeder/dpa
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

"War is no longer a concept from the past, it is real," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk warned in an interview with European media outlets last week.

"The most worrying thing is that every scenario is possible. I know it sounds devastating, especially for the younger generation, but we have to get used to the fact that a new era has begun: the pre-war era," Tusk said.

Tusk's warning comes after the Polish military recently detected a Russian missile entering Polish airspace for 39 seconds on March 24. A previous airspace violation happened in December.

In an interview with the British newspaper the Financial Times, the presidents of Latvia and Estonia, Edgars Rinkēvičs and Alar Karis, urged the other European allies to do more to prepare for a possible armed confrontation with Russia.

Rinkēvičs and Karis urged other European countries to consider everything, from conscription to a special defence tax and a significant increase in military spending.

Karis said that the United States accounts for 68% of all defence spending within NATO with $860 billion last year compared to $404 billion for European members and Canada. "We have to do something," he warned, "at least have it 50-50."


"We will support Ukraine for as long as necessary," German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on March 20 at a meeting with Tusk and French President Emmanuel Macron, amid public disagreements and tensions between Germany and its allies over how best to support Ukraine.

Ukraine has warned that stocks of munitions are running low in the fight against Russia, and is repeatedly asking supporters for more air defence systems, ammunition, missiles and aircraft.

The German chancellor openly disagreed with Macron's comments that NATO allies should leave open the possibility of deploying combat troops to Ukraine at some point in the future. He stressed that he would ensure NATO does not become directly involved in the fighting.

"To put it bluntly: as German chancellor, I will not be sending any soldiers from our Bundeswehr to Ukraine," Scholz said in response to Macron’s comments, using the German name for the country’s military.

The German leader has come under international criticism for his refusal to send long-range Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine, which he argues would risk escalating the conflict.


Meanwhile, the French government is pushing defence companies to ramp up production to meet the needs of its own army and continue support for Ukraine after more than two years of war with Russia.

French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu said Paris would deliver "hundreds" of armoured personnel carriers and anti-aircraft missiles in a new aid package for Ukraine in its war against Russian invaders.

"To hold such an extensive front line, the Ukrainian army needs for example our VAB vehicles: it’s absolutely essential for troop mobility," Lecornu told the La Tribune newspaper in an interview.


German Finance Minister Christian Lindner sees scope for up to €9 billion ($9.7 billion) in the federal budget from 2028 to increase the defence budget.

With disciplined budget management, the debt ratio will then once again be below the 60% of economic output prescribed by the European Union, the liberal leader told the German Press Agency dpa.

"If we fall below this limit, then the repayment of coronavirus debt planned from 2028 could be discussed again," he said and the funds could go into the defence budget instead.

The federal government had taken out emergency loans totalling around €300 billion in 2020, 2021 and 2022 due to the coronavirus crisis and the war in Ukraine.

Repayment is actually scheduled to begin in 2028 and run for more than 30 years. Currently, a debt repayment of €9 billion per year is planned, Lindner said.


Slovenian Defence Minister Marjan Šarec wants his country to no longer be just a buyer, but also to become a seller and producer of military equipment.

In 2023, the Slovenian Ministry of Defence signed €80.9 million worth of contracts with Slovenian defence companies, almost €60 million more than in 2022.

Slovenia is also increasing Research and Development funding, which amounted to €11.7 million in 2023 and is expected to reach €23 million in 2024.

Slovenia’s estimated defence expenditure for 2023 is €845 million representing 1.34% of gross domestic product (GDP), and is expected to reach 2% of GDP by 2030.

The Minister of Defence of North Macedonia, Slavjanka Petrovska, said that the domestic military industry is increasing production capacities.

North Macedonia has also joined the NATO initiative for the support of ammunition’s production and defence industry, which will help the country to acquire military equipment faster.

Meanwhile by the end of 2024, Slovakia's military could increase to 20,982 soldiers and 4,500 employees according to a proposal from the country's defence ministry.

In Portugal, however, the lack of new recruits and soldiers leaving the three branches of the Armed Forces has been a prevalent issue.

Last week the Portugese Navy Chief of Staff, Henrique Gouveia e Melo, backed compulsory military service, which officially ended in 2004, but military associations rejected the idea, preferring better wages and conditions to attract recruits.

At the same time, Portugal’s spending on defence is still very low compared to what NATO expects.

According to NATO’s secretary general report for 2023, Portugal’s defence spending as a percentage of GDP, was 1.48%, below the 2% that is requested for all 32 members of the alliance.

The content of this article is based on reporting by AFP, AGERPRES, ANSA, BTA, dpa, LUSA, MIA, STA, TASR, as part of the European Newsroom (enr) project.