Nicolae Ciuca spent a lifetime on the battlefield before being voted in as prime minister of Romania four months ago. Yet even he did not imagine the need to spend millions of dollars for emergency production of iodine pills to help block radiation poisoning in case of a nuclear blast, or to raise military spending 25% in a single year.
"We never thought we'd need to go back to the Cold War and consider potassium iodine again," Ciuca, a retired general, said through a translator at Victoria Palace, the government's headquarters in Bucharest. "We never expected this kind of war in the 21st century."
Across the European Union and Britain, Russia's invasion of Ukraine is reshaping spending priorities and forcing governments to prepare for threats thought to have been long buried — from a flood of European refugees to the possible use of chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons by a Russian leader who may feel backed into a corner.
The result is a sudden reshuffling of budgets as military spending, essentials like agriculture and energy, and humanitarian assistance are shoved to the front of the line, with other pressing needs like education and social services likely to be downgraded.
The most significant shift is in military spending. Germany's turnabout is the most dramatic, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz's promise to raise spending above 2% of the country's economic output, a level not reached in more than three decades. The pledge included an immediate injection of 100 billion euros into the country's notoriously threadbare armed forces. As Scholz put it in his speech last month, "We need planes that fly, ships that sail and soldiers who are optimally equipped."
The commitment is a watershed moment for a country that has sought to leave behind an aggressive military stance that contributed to two devastating world wars.
Belgium, Italy, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden — a militarily neutral country that is not a part of NATO — have also announced increases to their defense budgets.
"It's our responsibility to take measure to protect ourselves," said Ciuca, the Romanian prime minister. No one knows how long the war in Ukraine will continue, "but we have to reassess and adapt to what might happen in the future," he added. "We have to be prepared for the unexpected."