Investing in Peace – Defense Spending Over Warfare

The choice between investing in defense or engaging in warfare is not only a moral dilemma but also a profound economic question. The costs of war extend beyond the battlefield, affecting economies through the destruction of infrastructure, disruption of trade, and long-term fiscal burdens.

Conversely, strategic defense spending serves as a deterrent to conflict, potentially saving nations from the steep expenditures of war and fostering innovations in technology and medicine, which bolster the economy in various ways.

Economic Costs of War

The economic impacts of war are profoundly negative and far-reaching. Wars result in significant destruction of infrastructure, increases in debt, and disruption of economic activities, leading to long-term fiscal challenges for the involved nations. The economic costs of wars in European countries are profound, affecting everything from infrastructure to the broader economy. The recent conflict in Ukraine exemplifies these costs, significantly disrupting European economies, mainly through increased inflation and trade disruptions that threaten to derail Europe’s economic recovery  (European Investment Bank,​.

The financial burden of war extends beyond immediate destruction to long-term economic stagnation and increased poverty. For instance, disruptions in energy supply due to the conflict have led to skyrocketing energy prices, further fueling inflation across Europe (European Central Bank)​​.  The European Investment Bank (EIB) highlighted the risk of a deepened economic downturn, with a potential increase in the number of businesses facing default and a rise in poverty rates across the region (European Investment Bank)​.

Investment in Defense as a Preventative Measure

Given these dire consequences, investing in defense as a preventative measure seems a more sustainable strategy. Increased defense spending can serve as a deterrent to potential conflicts and stabilize regions by demonstrating readiness and resilience.

Historically, defense spending has been a substantial component of government budgets, often justified not only by the need for national security but also by the economic stimulation it provides. Investing in defense as a means of deterrence is considerably more cost-effective compared to the economic burden of war. The principle of deterrence is based on maintaining sufficient military capabilities to prevent potential conflicts by imposing a high cost on the aggressor, outweighing any possible gains from war (Encyclopedia Britannica)​. This strategy not only helps preserve national security but also stabilizes economic conditions by avoiding the extensive costs associated with wars.

Defense investment can prime the economy through business boosts, technological advancements, job creation, and involvement. Those European countries that recognized this reality significantly increased their defense budgets in response to current geopolitical threats. For example, Germany has committed to increasing its defense budget significantly, planning a €100 billion fund to boost its military capabilities (Bruegel)​. European defense spending is projected to increase substantially, with estimates suggesting an increase of up to €800 billion cumulatively by 2028 (McKinsey & Company)​.

Economic Benefits of Defense Spending

Economically, the benefits of defense spending can be seen through direct, indirect, and induced effects. For example, in Canada, defense expenditures have contributed significantly to both GDP and job creation. The multipliers from these expenditures suggest that the economic outputs extend beyond the initial spending, creating additional economic activity that supports further employment and income generation (Canadian Global Affairs Institute)​.

Defense spending has historically driven technological innovation, translating into broader economic and societal benefits. Europe, for example, has established the European Defence Fund (EDF) to foster cooperative investments in defense innovation, focusing on areas like cyber defense, space, and unmanned systems. This fund aims to distribute around €8 billion by 2027 to spur technological advances across the EU (Intereconomics)​.

Defense spending often involves substantial investments in research and development, which can lead to innovations that spill over into the civilian sector, enhancing capabilities in medicine and other critical areas (Bruegel)​.

Moreover, defense spending helps maintain and create jobs, from manufacturing to high-tech sectors, thus playing a critical role in economic recovery and growth. The strategy extends beyond merely preparing for potential conflicts; it involves preparing the economy for a high-tech future, underscored by the push for innovations such as AI and cybersecurity within the defense sector ((McKinsey & Company)​.

Defense and Economic Stability

However, these investments need to be balanced with the realities of inflation and other economic pressures, which can diminish the actual value of the funds allocated. Therefore, European nations are exploring strategies to maximize their defense spending efficiency, such as increasing collaboration to reduce costs, focusing on high-priority capability gaps, and investing in cutting-edge technologies that could lead the defense sector in the future (McKinsey & Company).

The Right Balance and United Approach

In the context of Belgium, defense investment serves as a catalyst for economic diversification and resilience. Belgium’s approach to defense spending has significant implications for both its national security and its economic performance. As of 2023, Belgium spent only 1.1% of its GDP on defense, which is well below NATO’s target of 2%. This places Belgium among the lowest spenders in the NATO alliance, only ahead of Luxembourg (Belga News Agency)​.

The Belgian defense industry, comprising a network of skilled professionals and specialized enterprises, has the potential to drive not only technological advancement but also export-oriented growth. By fostering strategic partnerships with international collaborators and leveraging its expertise in niche defense capabilities, Belgium can position itself as a competitive player in the global defense market, thereby fortifying its economic foundations and creating sustainable avenues for prosperity.

Belgium’s investment in defense has the potential to significantly impact the country’s economy and create various opportunities for job growth, new businesses, and technological research. However, the approach should not be bound to one country but on the European level, with a shared and aligned strategy.

The Belgian Ministry of Defense (MOD) has allocated an additional billion euros to boost the army’s short-term operationality, with plans to invest in areas such as ammunition stocks, protective gear, anti-tank weapons, protected vehicles, and communications systems. Furthermore, the MOD intends to invest $100 million in constructing new, energy-efficient, ecologically sound caserns, likely in Charleroi and Oost Vlaanderen. This investment is expected to be allocated to personnel, equipment, munitions, engineering, and cybersecurity, with Belgian companies playing a significant role in providing defense equipment and services (The International Trade Administration).

Foreign investment has historically played a significant role in Belgian economic growth, particularly in expanding light industrial and petrochemical industries. Establishing the European Union and NATO headquarters in Brussels has contributed to the rapid expansion of light industry throughout most of Flanders, especially along a corridor stretching between Brussels and Antwerp. Additionally, the Belgian economy is inextricably tied to that of Europe, with the country being a member of various supranational organizations, including the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union (BLEU), the Benelux Economic Union, and the EU. The government has also offered subsidies and incentives to encourage investment within Wallonia, aiming to address regional disparities in investment and economic development (Britannica).

Investment in defense and security has the potential to create job opportunities, stimulate the growth of new businesses, and foster technological research. Investment in defense equipment and infrastructure, along with the involvement of Belgian companies in providing defense-related products and services, can contribute to job creation and economic growth. Additionally, focusing on energy-efficient and ecologically sound infrastructure construction will likely create opportunities for businesses in the construction and engineering sectors, further contributing to economic development (The International Trade Administration).


While the necessity of defense investment is clear for maintaining national security and preventing the costly outcomes of war, it must be carefully balanced with the country’s broader economic and social needs. The lessons from historical conflicts and economic analyses suggest that preventative defense spending, when wisely managed, not only protects national interests but also supports economic stability and growth.

Belgium’s investment in defense has the potential to enhance its national security, stimulate economic growth, create jobs, and foster technological innovation. The allocation of resources to defense and security initiatives, along with the involvement of Belgian companies in providing defense-related products and services, can significantly impact the country’s economy and its various regions.



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