The Two Percent Conflict

BERLIN/BRUSSELS |

BERLIN/BRUSSELS (Own report) - In the run-up to this week's NATO summit, the debate on the German military budget's massive increase is continuing. Following the government's decision to increase next year's military budget by more than 10 percent to €42.9 billion, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen is suggesting the possibility of a further increase to around €60 billion by 2024. While the German government is acting as if this increase is in compliance with US demands, these funds are actually needed to be able to finance the expensive national and European arms buildup projects, which include billions for a German-French jet fighter operating in concert with killer drones and drone swarms. Major projects up for confirmation at this NATO summit are also designed to enhance Germany's national and European combat capabilities, including the establishment of a headquarters in Ulm to optimize troop transports. Berlin intends to fulfill the Bundeswehr's training mission in Iraq not as a NATO component, but as a national mission.

 

60 Billion Euros

On the weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated that the German defense budget would be increased "step by step," until it "approximates" the 2% of the GDP by 2024. According to a study by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) and the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), based on the current estimates of growth, 2% of the GDP would be around €85 billion by 2024 - an increase of 129 percent from 2017 to 2024.[1] Assuming that such an unprecedented hike in the military budget can hardly be achieved, the chancellor has lowered her announced expectations to the 2% being "approximated." However, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen still believes that an increase of 1.5 percent of the GDP in 2024 is possible. That would be an anticipated €60 billion. As a first step, the German government has decided to increase the military budget from its current €38.5 billion to €42.9 billion in 2019. Recently Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces Hans-Peter Bartels pointed out that this amount may increase. This year, the Bundeswehr will probably not exhaust its budget, and the available funds can be "carried over to next year." Thus, "the procuration budget for 2019 would be further enhanced."[2]

"As Bad as NAFTA"

The German government’s announcements are ultimately aimed at the NATO summit, due to take place in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Already in the wings of the G7 summit, US President Trump increased the pressure on the representatives of the participating NATO states. When he said "NATO is as bad as NAFTA,"[3] he reinforced their fears that the United States could wind down its activities in the war alliance. Trump is massively criticizing NAFTA and does not exclude withdrawing from the alliance. In his letters to state and government leaders of several NATO members, including Germany, Trump has repeatedly called on them to increase of their military budgets. In his letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel for example, he wrote: "As we discussed during your visit in April, there is growing frustration in the United States that some allies have not stepped up as promised. This is no longer sustainable for us."[4] At the same time, the USA is continuously increasing its spending for military activities in Europe - on a national level. For example, Trump has increased the funds available for US maneuvers, storage of military hardware and the construction of military infrastructure in Europe, within the framework of the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI, formerly the European Reassurance Initiative) from US $4.8 billion in 2018 to US $6.5 billion in 2019. These funds will also be used to finance the Operation Atlantic Resolve (OAR).[5]

German-European Armament

Whereas the increase in Berlin's military budget appears primarily to be in response to the pressure from the United States, it is, in fact, the result of Germany's own wide-ranging arms buildup plans. For example, an increase in personnel, diverse expensive arms projects - ranging from the procurement of new assault rifles to the purchase of battleships - is imminent for the Bundeswehr.[6] Together with France, Germany has begun to develop new battle tanks and jet fighters including with their affiliated killer drones and drone swarms. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[7]) At the same time, Berlin has initiated measures within the framework of the EU's new PESCO military cooperation, while participating also in the Paris-initiated European Intervention Initiative (EII).[8] The primary objective is to build up a powerful European military, even though the German government is no longer oriented exclusively on the EU. This facilitates a militarization of the continent with the inclusion of non-EU Norway, and, above all, post-Brexit United Kingdom.

Open to all Formats

At this week's NATO summit, Berlin also seeks to either have important measures adopted or at least rally support for them. These measures are very important for national, as well as European war planning - beyond the transatlantic war alliance. Thus, in Brussels, the NATO defense ministers should officially confirm the decision to establish a new headquarters in Germany. The headquarters - the Joint Support and Enabling Command (JSEC) - will be established in Ulm and will be in charge of planning military transport across the European continent, its optimization, and, in times of crisis, its management. Only if necessary, will it be subordinate to NATO. It is basically at the disposal of German wars, even in other alliance formats, for example, with EU military operations.[9] At its summit, NATO will also discuss the EU Commission's declaration of intent to make €6.5 billion available for the expansion of the Union's military infrastructure, which is ultimately to the EU's benefit. Finally, a "Four Thirties" US initiative is supposed to be launched. This initiative foresees that NATO should be in a position to spontaneously mobilize 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons, and 30 ships and deploy them in battle within 30 days. Even though it is still uncertain whether Berlin will be able to fully meet US demands by 2020, the Bundeswehr will be reinforced through the envisaged rapid operational readiness even outside the NATO framework.

National Engagement in Iraq

This incidentally corresponds to the fact recently reported that the German government refuses its support of an important NATO project. At its Brussels summit, the war alliance wants an official confirmation of the NATO defense ministers' earlier decision to intervene in Iraq. A mission is planned to train the Iraqi military. Plans call for the deployment of 550 soldiers. This project is seen as an important contribution to bolster western influence in Baghdad, which is seen as instable, because of the affinity influential forces in the Iraqi establishment have toward Iran. Germany is quite positive toward the request and plans a national training mission of the Bundeswehr - training particularly Iraqi officers and personnel in minesweeping,[10] However, the mission, wherein German military personnel will be flown in from the Al Azraq base in Jordan for between six and eight weeks, will be carried out under German national responsibility as demanded by the German government. The intention, imposed on the government coalition by its SPD partners, takes into account Germany's goal of acting as an independent force in the Middle East.

 

 

[1] Claudia Major, Christian Mölling, Torben Schütz, Alicia von Voss: Hintergrundpapier: Was das 2%-Ziel der NATO für die europäischen Verteidigungshaushalte 2024 bedeutet. Herausgegeben von der Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik und der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik. Berlin 2018.

[2] Donata Riedel: Bundesregierung will Wehretat bis 2024 erhöhen. handelsblatt.com 08.06.2018.

[3] Jonathan Swan: Scoop: Trump's private NATO trashing rattles allies. axios.com 28.06.2018.

[4] Julie Hirschfeld Davis: Trump Warns NATO Allies to Spend More on Defense, or Else. nytimes.com 02.07.2018.

[5] See also Vom Frontstaat zur Transitzone and Vom Frontstaat zur Transitzone (II).

[6] See also Die Kosten der Weltpolitik.

[7] See also Die Rüstungsachse Berlin-Paris.

[8] See also Coalition of Those Willing to Go to War.

[9] See also Transatlantische Konkurrenten.

[10] Deutschland meidet Nato-Mission im Irak. spiegel.de 06.07.2018.