Germany’s new leadership could increase NATO spending and see US missiles stay

Members of the German Bundeswehr prepare a Patriot missile launch system during a press day presentation at the Luftwaffe Warbelow training center on 18 December 2012 in Warbelow, Germany.

Sean Gallup | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Germany’s new coalition government has not yet fully taken power, but experts have scrutinized their new promises to see what they mean for Germany’s future.

Many questions have centered on Germany’s foreign and defense policy, especially in light of the current backdrop of tense relations between Russia and the rest of Europe.

The center-left Social Democratic Party will take over responsibility for the Ministry of Defense, while the co-leader of the Green Party, Annalena Baerbock, will take over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Baerbock has previously said she would deal with authoritarian governments like those in China and Russia with “dialogue and toughness,” there is no doubt how tough the new left-wing, ecologically-minded minister and coalition will be.

Germany has found itself in an awkward situation because while Russia has been accused of orchestrating a gas crisis with Europe and of preparing for a potential conflict with EU ally Ukraine – both allegations, which Russia denies – the final touches are also has been made for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, where Russian gas supplies are sent to Germany.

On Wednesday, Germany’s new coalition – consisting of the Social Democrats and the Green and Center-Right Free Democrats – announced a coalition agreement in which it signaled that Germany will continue to commit itself to NATO and its agreement on the sharing of nuclear weapons.

Three NATO members – the United States, France and Britain – have nuclear weapons. Germany does not have them, but hosts some U.S. nuclear weapons that German fighter jets can deploy if necessary. Such weapons are seen as a deterrent to military aggression from countries like Russia.

NATO itself notes that the military alliance’s “nuclear deterrence also depends on US nuclear weapons deployed in Europe and supporting capabilities and infrastructure provided by allies.”

The German coalition appeared to be committed to allowing these weapons to remain on German soil, saying “as long as nuclear weapons play a role in NATO’s strategic concept, Germany has an interest in participating in strategic discussions and planning processes,” the document said. Wednesday. .

Germany has had a strained relationship with its NATO allies for some time, especially the United States when it comes to defense spending. Berlin is slowly stepping up its defense spending in line with a 2014 NATO promise that member states will spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense.

In 2021, Germany spent about $ 53 billion on defense, an increase of 3% over the previous year, but the amount had still not reached the 2% guideline (it stood at 1.53% of GDP in 2021 according to NATO estimates ).

Former President Donald Trump repeatedly reprimanded Germany for its defense spending, accusing it of being “criminal” and taking advantage of the presence of US troops stationed in Germany.

Trump then announced last summer that he would withdraw nearly 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany, but the proposal was put on ice this year by President Joe Biden.

Daniela Schwarzer, CEO of Europe at the Eurasia Open Society Foundations, said the new coalition is likely to continue to increase defense spending with or without pressure from the United States

“Defense spending has risen over time, and it is very important for the German debate to emphasize that it is not the US president who is asking for it, but that the former German government has made that commitment,” she told CNBC on Thursday. and added that “it is very important to remind the new government that it is an agreement that stands firm.”

Given the SPD’s and the Greens’ position in the field of defense, where both seem to be in favor of more military cooperation at European level – the SPD is e.g. supporter of a European army – Schwarzer expected that defense spending would continue to rise.

“This is a coalition that has two left parties [the SPD and Greens] who are not the ones who would be foremost in the mind of defense spending. But what I think is going to happen is that they will increase Germany’s defense spending not in big leaps, but in gradual terms … At the same time with a green [Party] Foreign Minister, it is also likely that Germany will invest in other areas of foreign policy, not just defense, such as humanitarian aid and civilian crisis management, “she noted.

“All in all, I think we have the ingredients in place for Germany to take on a stronger role within the EU, but also internationally,” she said.

The incumbent Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, for her part, stated that she did not intend to take a laissez-faire stance on global geopolitics, declaring on Wednesday the need for a “proactive” and communicative approach to Germany’s foreign policy.

“We live in a time when the crises that are happening directly around us in Central Europe are becoming more serious,” she said at a news conference Wednesday after the coalition agreement was announced.

“Look at the situation in Belarus and the situation at Europe’s external borders. Together, we have all agreed to return to a more proactive European foreign policy, based on the strengths of diplomacy and dialogue and on values ​​and human rights-based cooperation.”

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