More NATO Troops for Eastern Europe

DGAP President makes a plea for weapons deliveries to Ukraine and to increase Germany’s military budget, possibly to more than €100 billion. East European resistance to new NATO presence.

BERLIN/KIEV (Own report) – The German government should immediately deliver “weapons and munition” to Ukraine and, in the course of five years, increase Germany’s military budget to up to 3 percent of the country’s GDP – possibly to more than €100 billion. These demands are being made by the President of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), Thomas Enders. Enders also calls for “the introduction of compulsory service or the draft for men and women,” to “be able to create a rapidly mobilizable reserve for homeland defense.” He also mentions the deployment of more German troops in Eastern Europe. He attacks German government policy during the Ukraine crisis as “irresponsible.” NATO’s plans to deploy units, such as those in Poland and the Baltic countries also in other countries in eastern and southeastern Europe, are creating new splits in the region. Whereas Romania, for example, is in favor of the measure and the French military is already considering establishing a presence in that country, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Hungary are opposed. More than 50 percent of the Slovaks consider Russia a strategic partner.

“Like the French Pacifism of 1939”

The President of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), Thomas Enders, is calling for a drastically more aggressive German policy toward Russia and dramatic steps to bolster the Bundeswehr. As Enders writes in a recent article, the German government’s current approach to the crisis over Ukraine is “irresponsible.” Berlin must immediately “switch to a robust foreign and defense policy.”[1] Enders argues, using such terms as a “brazen Russian aggression” and calls Russia’s President Vladimir Putin a “Russian dictator.” Implicitly he juxtaposes Moscow’s policy to that of the Third Reich. According to polls, a “majority of Germans do not even want to go to war on behalf of such NATO partners, as the Baltic countries,” that is reminiscent “of the ‘mourir pour Danzig?’ – French pacifism of 1939.” Last week MEPs Michael Gahler (CDU) and Viola von Cramon-Traubadel (Greens) actually drew parallels between Russia and the Nazi regime. ( reported.[2])

Weapons for Ukraine

Enders – who earlier had been on the Planning Staff of Germany’s defense ministry, before moving on to the aerospace industry in 1991 and from 2012 – 2019 serving as Chairman of the Board at Airbus – on the one hand, calls for “immediate military support ... for Ukraine.”[3] He finds the German government’s delivery of 5,000 combat helmets and fulfilling the previously promised repairs of bunkers in Odessa insufficient. Germany, in Enders’ opinion, should deliver “equipment, weapons and munition,” and do it “in coordination with the NATO partners.” The “stationing of additional troops in the Baltic and East European NATO countries” should be considered “to the extent that this is desired.” Enders proposes additional measures that could be deemed preparations for an escalation of the conflict: the “initial steps for the transformation of Germany’s energy policy” should be launched – “with the objective” of “reducing dependence on Russian oil and gas supplies as soon [!] and as much [!] as possible.”

Focus on Combat Troops

On the other hand, Enders speaks in favor of an increase in the German military budget “to between 2 – 3 percent of the GDP over the next 5 years.”[4] That would represent an increase from the €50.3 billion budget of 2022, to – depending on the economic development – possibly far surpassing €100 billion in 2027. Enders wants to use this money to finance, among other things, “an increase of the troops in all three branches of the military to 200,000 to 250,000 active-duty soldiers,” with “focus, combat troops.” At the end of 2021, the personnel strength of the Bundeswehr was at around 184,000.[5] Enders also says that “the introduction of a compulsory service or the draft for men and women” must soon be “placed on the agenda” – also “to be able to create a rapidly mobilizable reserve for homeland defense.” And last, but not least “talks should be held with France on the question of a European Defense Union,” where “also the establishment of a European nuclear deterrence, centered around France’s Force de Frappe” should be agreed on, proposes the President of the DGAP.[6] Alongside the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), the DGAP is one of the two most influential German think tanks in the field of foreign policy.

Open to NATO Troops

Whereas particularly transatlantic circles – such as Enders – are calling for a NATO troop buildup in eastern and southeastern Europe, this is provoking resistance and even indications of new splits in the region. In principle, the deployment of additional soldiers is supported by Poland and the Baltic countries. Over the weekend, Great Britain held out the prospect of doubling the amount of its troops stationed in Estonia within the framework of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence (eFP), which currently stands at around 900 British soldiers. NATO plans to station eFP troops – which it has currently deployed only in Poland and the Baltic countries – also in Romania and Bulgaria. Occasionally Hungary and Slovakia are also in discussion, as additional possible locations. Romania has declared that it is fully in accord with an eFP base. France’s President Emmanuel Macron has held out the prospect of stationing French soldiers in Romania, apparently as the leading nation in establishing a Romanian eFP. Experts are speculating that to meet the minimum 600 – 800 troop strength, it may be necessary to redeploy 300 of the French eFP troops, currently deployed in Estonia.[7] The prospect of London’s doubling the size of the British troop contingent would more than make up for this potential loss.

Russia: “Strategic Partner”

However, other eastern and southeastern European nations are expressing disapproval of NATO’ plans. Already in December, Bulgaria’s Minister of Defense Stefan Janev had rejected the plan to station an eFP unit in his country, and reiterated this position last week before the Bulgarian parliament.[8] Bulgaria enjoys good relations with Russia. It was also reported last week that Slovakia’s government is also not in favor of an eFP deployment on its territory. Although Foreign Minister Ivan Korčok shows sympathy toward the plan, the majority of the government is opposed, also because they fear social unrest. More than 60 percent of the Slovaks do not see Russia as a threat, and more than 50 percent see that country as a strategic partner.[9] Hungary’s foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó called news reports “fake news“ that claimed that the deployment to Hungary of a 1,000-strong NATO unit – the usual size of an eFP unit – was in discussion.[10] Recently, Croatian President Zoran Milanović raised eyebrows with his threat that if there is a military escalation of the Ukraine conflict, all Croatian soldiers would be withdrawn from alliance units. However, it does not fall within the competence of Croatia’s president to make such a decision, and the government is strictly loyal to NATO. But, this is not the situation among the population. Current polls show that only 44 percent “trust” the alliance, while 47 percent distrust it.[11]


For more information on this subject see Kriegstrommeln in Deutschland and Exercising War Against Russia.


[1] Thomas Enders: Für eine realistische deutsche Russlandpolitik. 25.01.2022.

[2] See also Die Erwartungen der Ukraine.

[3], [4] Thomas Enders: Für eine realistische deutsche Russlandpolitik. 25.01.2022.

[5] Thomas Wiegold: Personalstärke Dezember 2021: Zum Jahresabschluss fast unverändert. 18.01.2022.

[6] See also Griff nach der Bombe (III) and Ein Nuklearschild für die EU.

[7] Philippe Chapleau: Des “centaines” de soldats français bientôt en Roumanie. 30.01.2022.

[8] Krassen Nikolov: Defence minister says no decision to deploy NATO troops in Bulgaria. 26.01.2022.

[9] Michal Hudec: NATO mulls sending troops to Slovakia, government reluctant. 28.01.2022.

[10] Szijjártó: Report of 1,000 NATO Troops Deploying to Hungary “Fake News”. 29.01.2022.

[11] Michael Martens: Zagreb und der Westen. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 28.01.2022.

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