Germany is preparing to raise its share of NATO’s budget by €5 billion, up to €47.3 billion in 2019, according to German news agency dpa.
That would put Germany’s defense spending at 1.35% of GDP, still lower than the 2% target for NATO members. Regardless, this marks the biggest increase for Germany since 1991.
The information is not yet officially confirmed, but if true this would mean that Germany has at least partially caved to US President Donald Trump’s demands for EU allies to spend more on defense and to increase their share of spending on NATO in particular.
At 2018’s NATO summit, Trump threatened to leave the alliance if members did not reach the 2% target soon. He has repeatedly singled out Germany as a country that doesn’t spend 2%.
The decision to spend 2% of GDP would follow a gradual increase and was agreed upon in 2014, during the NATO summit in Wales. Each member has until 2024 to reach the 2%, and Berlin has continuously repeated that it already has existing spending plans.
“We will do our part to ensure that NATO can meet all the challenges of the future,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.
Still, Germany formerly said that it plans to reach 1.5% by 2024 and then reach 2% at some other point in time.
Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen repeated the government’s pledge to spend more on defense, albeit in smaller increments than Washington would like.
Speaking in the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament, she added that “we cannot allow any doubt to arise regarding our solidarity” from partners in North America to ones in Europe.
Of course, the biggest reason for increased spending is to combat “Russian aggression.”
In April 2019, US Vice President Mike Pence said that the biggest economy in Europe can’t lag behind.
“It is simply unacceptable for Europe’s largest economy to continue to ignore the threat of Russian aggression and neglect its own self-defense and our common defense,” he said.
In March, US Ambassador Richard Grenell the government’s consideration of “reducing its already unacceptable commitments to military readiness is a worrisome signal to Germany’s 28 NATO allies.”
Ambassador Grenell in @AP on #Germany’s defense #budget plans: “reducing its already unacceptable commitments to military readiness is a worrisome signal to Germany’s 28 #NATO allies.” https://t.co/MzLpaI6Bme
— US-Botschaft Berlin (@usbotschaft) March 18, 2019
Following Grenell’s statement and calls for more spending by Germany, he was accused of meddling in Germany’s internal matters.
Deputy speaker of Germany’s Bundestag, Wolfgang Kubicki said Germany’s foreign minister “should declare Richard Grenell persona non grata immediately,” Der Spiegel reported.
Kubicki said it is intolerable that “the U.S. ambassador would once again interfere in political questions of the sovereign Federal Republic.”
“If a U.S. diplomat acts like a high commissioner of an occupying power, he will have to learn that our tolerance has its limits,” Kubicki said.
The Social Democrats’ parliamentary manager Carsten Schneider weighed in too, saying: “Diplomatically, Mr. Grenell is a complete failure. This entire thing seems like the behavior of a naughty schoolboy.”
In February 2019, it was reported that one of the bigger challenges Germany faces in terms of military spending was due to a budget gap.
The Finance Ministry estimates that Germany would need to allocate far more money to defense spending than it already has in order to raise the defense budget to 1.5 percent of economic output by 2024, according to an alleged ministry analysis.
The analysis reportedly also predicts a €25 billion ($28.6 billion) shortfall in tax revenues up until 2023 due to a slowing economy.
On May 15th, Angela Merkel said that the EU needs to bond closer so that it can stand against the US, Russia and China.
“There is no doubt that Europe needs to reposition itself in a changed world…. The old certainties of the postwar order no longer apply,” Merkel told the German media.
“They [China, Russia and the U.S.] are forcing us, time and again, to find common positions. That is often difficult given our different interests. But we do get this done—think, for example, of our policy regarding the conflict in Ukraine,” Merkel added. “Our policies on Africa, too, now follow a common strategy, which a few years ago would have been unthinkable. So we keep putting one foot in front of the other. However, our political power is not yet commensurate with our economic strength.”
The Financial Times allegedly saw a letter, in which Washington warns against greater military co-operation between EU countries.
It said that Washington was “deeply concerned” that approval of the rules for the European Defence Fund and the Permanent Structured Cooperation, or Pesco, launched in 2017 to plug gaps in Europe’s military power, would “produce duplication, non-interoperable military systems, diversion of scarce defence resources and unnecessary competition between Nato and the EU”.
“It is vital . . . that independent EU initiatives like EDF and Pesco do not detract from Nato activities and Nato-EU co-operation,” the letter said.
Washington said the rules for the EDF contained “poison pills” that would prevent companies based outside the EU, including the US, from participating in military projects.