mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Cold War II?
Europe Ups Its Game

Twin announcements from Germany and Sweden offer hope that Western Europe may finally be spooked enough to start paying more for defense. First up is Germany, which has announced a plan to increase its military spending significantly, Defense News reports:

The German government under Chancellor Angela Merkel has approved plans to increase defense spending by 6.2 percent over the next five years — an extra €8 billion (US $8.5 billion) by 2019.

In 2016, the defense budget will rise by €1.2 billion to €34.2 billion. The extra funds will allow the defense ministry to push ahead with plans to reform and expand its armed forces as well as commit to a “widened NATO engagement,” according to the draft budget. That includes involvement in the NATO response force to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which Merkel has warned could take a long time to resolve.

Meanwhile, a nervous Sweden is bolstering its naval capacity in the Baltic in a big way. (Perhaps the Russian sub that was sighted lurking in its waters in October has something to do with the decision.) The Swedish Armed Forces Command asked for up to $2 billion for naval defense, and the government has now approved $700 million in funding for the surface fleet and a further $950 for two of the new A26-class subs.

Closer to the threat, a spate of Eastern European countries are looking at conscription measures to ensure a standing army that is properly staffed and well prepared. In Poland, which has an upcoming election, 80 percent of respondents to a recent poll said they were in favor of reintroducing conscription (it ended in 2009). That’s an 8 percent increase in the past four months alone. In Lithuania’s parliament, 112 out of 141 ministers voted for a bill on March 19 to reinstate conscription for the next 5 years in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. Meanwhile, in the Czech Republic, the Defense Ministry is drafting a bill to submit to parliament that would require men and women over 18 to serve.

Well, Mr. Putin, you are getting your wish; people are beginning to take you seriously as a threat. If Europe keeps this up, you may even have that evil Western alliance working to contain Russia you keep going on about.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Andrew Allison

    “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” (Johnson to Boswell).

    • Corlyss

      Do you foresee any impact on this Awakening from the fact that they collectively haven’t really solved their money problems? I hear a lot of confusing signals regarding what was the EU’s existential crisis over the last 6 years. Some say it doesn’t matter. Others say they are in denial. I just can’t get a bead on it.

      • Andrew Allison

        I think that Johnson’s point was that, faced with (figurative) hanging, priorities change. Putin may, accidentally, be the catalyst for such a change. The money problem in the EU as a whole is no different from that at home: not producing enough to pay the bills. As has been so well-demonstrated by the Greek farce, this can only have one outcome, the only question is the timing.

  • f1b0nacc1

    My grandfather had a saying that seems rather appropriate here….”Twice nothing is still nothing”

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    I don’t think they really feel threatened yet, and they still feel America will fight for them without it costing them anything. America needs to withdraw from NATO based on the other members failure to spend the 2.0% on defense as they are obligated to do.

    • Andrew Allison

      They clearly feel threatened, but still think that the US umbrella will keep them from harm. Withdrawal, I think, is a step too far (is it really in our interest to see the Iron Curtain re-established?). As I’ve commented previously, we need to establish a timetable for reduction of our contribution in order to persuade the other members to fulfill their obligations.

      • Fat_Man

        We can’t care more than they do.

    • Ofer Imanuel

      Relying on Obama to bail them out?

    • Corlyss

      Check out this symposium on James Burnham ( third panel has James Kirchick, an unsparing critic of NATO starting at 2:35.

  • Fat_Man

    The GDP of Germany is about €3.6 Trillion. €34.2 billion is not quite 1% of that. To boost Germany’s defense budget to the supposed NATO standard of 2% would more than double it to €72 Billion. An €8 billion increase is just spit in the ocean. Dissolve NATO, nobody in Europe cares what happens to them.

    • csthor

      Strange. This is the second time I’ve seen the higher GDP number but I don’t know where that came from.
      According to the Federal Department of Statistics last year’s GDP was at 2.9038 trillion €uros. Two percent of this would translate into a defense budget of 58.08 billion Euros and would require an additional 25.11 billion € (up from 32.97 billion € planned for 2015). It goes without saying that no such thing will happen – Germany isn’t wired that way.
      This “increase” is a sham, it’s merely creative bookkeeping and the realities are hidden in the small print. Most of it is tied to a mandatory pay adjustment and long overdue fixes for housing and other infrastructure. Nothing will go into equipment or maintenance. As such … pls ignore the dumb statements of german politicians. Us Krauts are trying to keep them muzzled but somehow they don’t want to cooperate. 😉

      • Fat_Man

        Wikipedia. It doesn’t make much difference. The gap between German economic power and German military spending is too big.

        I have urged the United States to dissolve NATO and leave Europe to its own devices. In the 1950s when Europe was recovering from WWII, the United States was willing to carry the economic burden of defending Western Europe from Russia.

        Europe is rich now and can afford its own defense. If that is just something that won’t happen because “Germany isn’t wired that way”, then the Europe will have to figure out its own method for dealing with Russia.

        I, and most other Americans, will not care more about what happens to Europe than the Europeans do. We certainly will not spend our money to defend people who refuse to defend themselves.

        Вы говорите по-русски?

        • csthor

          Problem, at least for the politicians, is that withdrawing from NATO would open up the mother of all cans of worms: nuclear proliferation. I bet a country like Poland would work towards own nuclear weapons (they feel threatened by Russia and are big enough to make that at least possible), maybe in some kind of “union” with the Baltics. But if Poland goes that way who is to say who else will? And more importantly: Why would they not be sanctioned as Iran is? That would create so much headache in this aspect alone … I bet a few hairs just turned grey merely by reading that.
          Besides I think the fear-mongering of Russia is overdone. Too many people seem o be caught in the old thought-pattern of looking at Russia but seeing the 800-pound-gorilla of the Soviet Union. It’s not this way – Russia has (at best) 40 Brigades in its Army, most of which aren’t particularly modern and are strewn across the entirety of Russia (incl Far East and the volatile Caucasus region). Russia of today is no longer the USSR of old, it no longer has the means and ends to conquer all of Europe and hold it.

          • Fat_Man

            You are worried about Poland with a nuclear weapon and you are not worried about Russia with enough nuclear weapons to end life on this planet. Does the phrase “You strain out gnats and swallow camels” mean anything to you?

            As I said above, we cannot make Europe care about its defense. If Europe does not care, then the United States should not spend money on Europe’s defense.

            BTW: Iran’s dictator holds a rally every Friday Afternoon, at which he leads the mob in chants of Death to America. When they start doing the same thing in Poland, I will worry about Poland.

          • Angel Martin

            only Germany has the economic and demographic heft to lead the central and eastern european countries in a defensive alliance against Russia.

            the problem, the EU and the euro were designed to limit German power. Germany cannot lead until the EU and the euro go.

          • Fat_Man

            Angel: I take it from Csthor, who seems to be on the ground im Deutschland, that the Germans don’t want to lead or do anything else.

            You can lead a horse to water, but it takes a lot to drive him to drink. — W.C. Fields.

          • csthor

            No, I am not worried about Poland as a hypothetical nuclear power. I said it would set a precedent nobody in the west wants because that would give “opposing” regimes a very powerful argument in favor of their ambitions.
            PS: Please, for the love of god, do not think of Europe as a single entity. It’s a flea circus of 28 sovereign member states which all have diverging national interests and cultures. Subsuming them under the term “Europe” is neither realistic nor helpful in any discussion. 🙂

          • Fat_Man

            Csthor: If you are worried about the precedent, you can solve the problem. Don’t expect the United States to solve your problems when not one of your fleas shows the slightest bit of interest in taking care of itself.

          • Fat_Man

            Some news items from the last couple of days. Draw your own conclusions.

            “NATO condemns Russian nuclear threat against Denmark”

            Recent statements by Russian ambassador Mikhail Vanin that Danish warships could become the target of Russian nukes, should the country participate in NATO’s missile defence, have drawn a sharp reaction from NATO.

            * * *

            Lungescu said the tone and content of Vanin’s comments “erode confidence in Russia” and that besides being provocative, Vanin’s comments seemed ill-timed and somewhat confusing.

            * * *

            “Swedish military identified and followed four Russian fighter plane near Gotland and Bornholm, off the country’s east coast on Tuesday morning.”


            “But Foreign Minister Margot Wallström used stronger language to describe the incident, saying in an interview with TT: “We need to get the Russian side to respect the existing rules framework and put an end to something which has been tremendously challenging and also downright dangerous for civil aviation.” “We are tired to keep having to protest these violations, or more accurately, rules violations,” she added.-”

            Like I said: we cannot care more than Europe does.

  • gabrielsyme

    plans to increase defense spending by 6.2 percent over the next five years

    6% is barely anything over a five-year time span, and if this isn’t over and above inflation then we are looking at a decrease in the German defence budget. Either way, Germany is profoundly unserious if this is supposed to be a boost to its military capability.

  • Silverfiddle

    What will they do about the internal threat, which is even greater? Teeming hordes of Europe-hating Muslim bigots who refuse to integrate. That is the beast that will eat Europe.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service