More German Plodding
Germany’s Least Menacing Military Buildup Ever

The Germany military is adding 7,000 new posts by 2023 and will spend upwards of $150 billion on new equipment over the next 15 years. Faced with threats from Russian revanchism, cyberattacks, and the Islamic State, Germany has seen its elite opinion move dramatically in favor of remilitarization. It is worth noting that public opinion is moving in concert as well; 45 percent of Germans now back increasing troops, triple the amount of support in the 2009.

But these steps, encouraging as they are, are not enough. The NYT reports:

Germany is not moving fast enough for defense experts like Hans-Peter Bartels, the parliamentary commissioner for the military, or Karl-Heinz Kamp, the president of the government’s Federal Academy for Security Policy.

Germany should expand its military “as quickly as possible, as much as possible,” said Dr. Bartels, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party. Despite the announced expansion, he noted, military spending is in danger of sinking to 1.08 percent of Germany’s gross domestic product, which he said would be its lowest ever — and well below the 2 percent that NATO member states committed to spend at the alliance’s last summit meeting, in Wales in 2014.

Wary of stoking fears that “German militarism” is once again on the march, Germany’s leaders are steadily approving steps so small they won’t even cover the country’s baseline NATO obligations. Leaks of a soon-to-be-released white paper reveal that Germany is also sketching the outlines of a pan-EU army, complete with a “joint civil-military headquarters for EU operations,” a non-threatening way of saying that Germany would like to become the continent’s anchoring military power.

Militaries take a long time to rebuild, and Germany is taking the very first steps in making needed, if unambitious, changes. It’s best to focus on the essentials, like ending overtime rules that interfere with troop training, and achieve real gains in the size and capacity of Germany’s own military. The grand continental projects can wait.

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