The conflict in Ukraine "has given NATO renewed purpose" and spurred Eastern Europe to ditch Soviet-era equipment, but China's military moderniszation remains the United States' chief concern, a British think-tank said Wednesday.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said that around 20 countries in Europe "announced either immediate uplifts to defense spending or a stronger commitment to longer term spending goals" in 2022, in response to Russia's actions in Ukraine.

In its annual "Military Balance" report, the London-based think-tank said that "the invasion has given NATO renewed purpose; has impelled Finland and Sweden to apply to join the Alliance; and has led states in Eastern Europe to sharpen their focus on defense."

However, rampant inflation had eaten up much of the increased spending commitments, with European defense outlay increasing only by 0.8 percent in real terms last year.

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Russia's invasion has also led to Eastern European states updating their inventories with "more modern Western military systems", with South Korea also emerging as a major defense supplier in Europe.

Despite the general focus on Russia, it is China that has the attention of the US in the long-term, added the IISS.

"China's military modernisation remains the principal area of concern for Washington," it said.

"China's defense spending increase of 7.0 percent in the 2022 budget, over 2021 figures, is its largest in absolute terms," it added.

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The stark reality is that without very immediate military backing and supplies from the US, Ukraine could lose the war, or at least significantly more territory, the author writes.

China's actions are causing regional states to follow suit, with South Korea moderniszing its armed forces and Japan planning to boost its military capability with additional investments and new partnerships, said the report.

 

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