Germany’s new defence minister and successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel in the leadership of the Christian Democrats (CDU), Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK), says Germany will meet NATO’s 2% defence spending benchmark by 2024.
The former Defense Minister and President of the next European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, vowed to raise German defence spending to 1,5% by 2024, meeting the ire of the government’s junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats.
Kramp now has made a more ambitious pledge, vowing to boost spending further, in what amounts to a double-digit hike of billions of euros in defence spending. Current defence spending in Germany is in the region of 1,25%.
In 2014 NATO allies pledged to set a minimum of 2% of GDP for by 2024, mostly in reaction to a resurgent Russia. Germany was never on track to reach that level, while the expectation of slowing economic growth have made the commitment to increased military spending less politically attractive.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has in the past addressed this shortfall by pointing to non-military funds devoted to crisis prevention and humanitarian aid, which Germany has increased. However, Kramp-Karrenbauer has now moved to make defence spending a test to her political leadership, seeking to show her ability to built political alliances even against the opposition of the Social Democrats (SPD).
In a statement to Sunday’s edition of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the new leader of the CDU suggests that Germany may yet meet NATO expectations, with the 2020 budget showing a clear increase in defence spending.
The government’s junior coalition partners were quick to react. In a letter published by Redaktionsnetzwerks Deutschland on Monday, the acting leader of the Social Democrats, Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, accused AKK of succumbing to pressure by US President Donald Trump.
The Greens have not categorically excluded the possibility of approving an increase in defence spending, but only if the military is restructured. In a statement to the public broadcaster, ZDF, Party co-leader Robert Habeck made clear that AKK’s plant would not be supported by Greens unless there is an overhaul of the military, “which is not above all a question of money.”