In March 2018, Germany’s Social Democrats voted in favor of another grand coalition with Angela Merkel’s center-right alliance. With political instability and populism rising across Europe, the formation of this new coalition government in Germany led to great hope and expectations, particularly on the defence and security matters.
A few days ago, the US president has claimed Germany and other NATO members « owe billions » for falling short of spending targets”. Indeed, Donald Trump singled out Germany for failing to meet a defense spending target of 2 percent of GDP agreed upon between members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Last year, Germany spent 1.13 percent of GDP, far below this NATO target.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen have backed a straightforward interpretation of the NATO target and promised to meet that goal by 2024.
NEW SPENDING FOR GERMAN COALITION
Germany’s new ruling coalition government has vowed to increase military spending by some €10 billion ($12.4 billion) over the next four years, with further funds expected to be allocated towards development aid. The German Defense Ministry defended the rise in troop numbers amid concerns that it would overstretch the Bundeswehr’s aging military equipment.
Moreoever, Merkel’s cabinet approved an expansion of foreign military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Mali, including increasing the number of German troops in Afghanistan by 1,300 with plans for a long-term deployment. The mission to train Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq has largely been completed, but rather than withdraw its troops, Germany is stationing most of them in Baghdad.
Moreover, 100 additional troops will be deployed to a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali where Germany has just taken over command of a military base in Gao from the French.
In addition, the German air force will continue its surveillance and refueling mission as part of the Western-allied campaign against the Islamic State.
A BALANCE BETWEEN THE USA AND EUROPE
Overall, the defense section of the coalition agreement strives to strike a balance between Germany’s alliance with Washington and its place as a key player in Europe. While it pledges that Berlin would “breathe life” into a common EU defense policy, it notes that the Unites States is undergoing “far-reaching change” that would present great challenges.
Credit photo: ©AFP