Confronting an array of threats from an aggressive Russia under Putin to the east to a refugee crisis driven by multiple failing states in the Middle East and Africa, Germany is going to expand its military for the first time in a generation. The Financial Times reports:
After falling from 585,000 in 1990 to 177,000 today, the armed services are to rise by 7,000 new posts by 2023. About 5,000 new frontline posts will also be created through internal restructuring.
The government will ask Germany’s parliament to ease the current legal upper limit of 185,000 troops so that the military can respond more quickly to fast-changing security challenges.
The civilian payroll of 56,000 will also be raised by 4,400 to increase the support for the uniformed ranks as they face more complex tasks in an increasing range of foreign locations, which today include Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Mali.
This is a trend we’ve been following for some time: over the last few years, as Europe’s security situation has grown steadily darker even as Germany has cast off some of the shackles of its past and become clearly the leading nation in Europe, German public opinion has begun to shift away from the strict pacifism of old. Political leadership and even budget posture have followed. As the FT continues:
A recent opinion poll for the government’s Military History and Social Sciences Centre, found 45 per cent support for increasing troop numbers, compared with 15 per cent in 2009.
After limiting defence spending for 25 years, Berlin is boosting the military budget by 6 per cent over five years, starting with a €1.2bn increase in 2016 to €34.2bn.
But as we’ve also written, this is going to be a difficult and painful shift. Like trying to make back money you’ve lost in the stock market or shed weight you’ve gained, getting back into fighting form here is going to be some not-very-pleasant work. Today’s “big news” is, as you can see, a fraction of what was shed. There’s still a long way to go.