How to Spend It: Three Simple Suggestions to Increase German Military Spending
Recently, the German Defense Ministry announced the seventh restructuring of the German army in 25 years. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen will present the official plan to create three new fully equipped divisions to NATO defense ministers in June. Germans have found it hard in the post-Cold War era to decide what a German military should do, what the country’s history allows it to do, and how it fits into international defense structures like NATO. The current version of Germany’s new defense pragmatism calls for a multi-pronged strategy of creating joint bilateral initiatives within Europe, committing soldiers to NATO, and engaging in U.N. peacekeeping missions.
Still, Germans have tended to push back heavily on suggestions that they rapidly ramp up military spending. There are understandable historical and practical reasons for this. But there are ways to spend more on defense without preparing for Germany to go nuclear — a suggestion floated somewhat outlandishly and in violation of Germany’s international treaty obligations after the election of Donald Trump. Germans need to think more broadly about what constitutes military spending, realizing that it comprises far more than hardware. Let me suggest three solutions that kill many birds with one stone. Germany can spend money discriminately to boost its economy, secure its population, and strengthen its role in sustaining the international order.
Although Berlin increased its defense budget by 8 percent in 2017, Germany has come under intense pressure to move faster to boost its military budget from the current 1.2 percent of GDP.
President Trump has been most direct in demanding that Europeans pull their weight. In May 2016, he said that NATO was “costing us a fortune,” though the full ramifications of such statements remain unclear. When Merkel visited Trump in March 2017, the tension between the two was palpable. After the meeting, Trump maintained an aggressive stance, tweeting that “Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!”