In the run-up to the NATO Summit in Brussels on Wednesday (11 July), reporting on both sides of the Atlantic is being dominated by the discussion about defence expenditure. Germany is accused of spending too little on defence, making burden-sharing within NATO unfair. What people fail to remember, though, is that commitment to NATO cannot be measured in euros alone, and even the agreement reached at the NATO Summit in Wales in 2014 goes beyond mere financial obligations. The Allies agreed to develop and provide military capabilities and pledged in that framework to provide adequate funding for them.
Germany invests in solidarity
From Germany’s viewpoint, it is clear that the Alliance will remain strong if its members can continue to count on one another. This includes operational armed forces equipped with the necessary military capabilities. That is why, in 2014, the Federal Government stopped the trend of defence expenditure cuts. It has increased investment in the Bundeswehr every year since then – both in absolute terms and as a proportion of GDP. So almost 17 billion euros more than expected have been spent on defence since 2014. The Federal Government has announced its intention to continue in this vein.
More money equals more security?
Defence expenditure alone is an inadequate indicator of fair burden-sharing. That is why the Federal Government participates in NATO missions and other obligations within the Alliance. Germany is the second-largest troop contributor in NATO, with the Bundeswehr making virtually its entire range of military capabilities available to the Alliance. Germany has long been involved in major NATO operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan; German Navy ships have taken part in operations in the Mediterranean and in the Standing NATO Maritime Groups. Germany is one of the four so-called “Framework Nations” which as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence give the Baltic States and Poland a guarantee that they can rely on NATO’s protection. Further, Germany will be the only European Alliance member to establish a new strategic NATO Headquarter as part of the command structure reform. What counts is practical engagement in the service of solidarity and unity.