Germany seeks to become the “backbone” of European defense with the increase in the military budget | International

Germany seeks to become the “backbone” of European defense with
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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, between Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (right) and Bundeswehr Inspector General Carsten Breuer, during the annual conference of the German Army, this Friday in Berlin.HANNIBAL HANSCHKE (EFE)

Germany is determined to abandon the secondary and subordinate role to the United States that its defense policy has played in recent decades. The turning pointthe change of era or radical turn that Berlin announced after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, continues to be a priority objective more than a year and a half after announcing it. The political commitment has been repeated ad nauseam, but until now there was a certain uncertainty in the air regarding the budget. The chancellor, Olaf Scholz, recognized this Friday that it is urgent to clarify the defense spending plans in the medium and long term and stressed his commitment to increasing it above 2% of GDP in a sustained manner over time. In the words of Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, the country seeks to become the “backbone” of European defense.

“We are working on a path to adjust the defense budget that guarantees it even after the special fund has been spent. Because only if the Bundeswehr [el Ejército alemán] can rely on this, the acquisition processes can be planned and executed in a sustainable manner,” said the chancellor during his speech at the annual conference of the armed forces, on Friday in Berlin. The announcement of the turning point It came accompanied by an extraordinary allocation of 100,000 million euros to modernize the impoverished German Army with the purchase of new material. A few months later, the first criticisms surfaced about the slowness of the tenders, to which were added doubts about how to guarantee that level of spending when the fund was exhausted.

The chancellor reiterated that 2% is a long-term objective, at least the next 15 years, and that it will be met. Berlin will reach it for the first time in 2024 (with a budget of about 51.8 billion) after being well below the threshold that NATO required of its members for more than three decades. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has disrupted Germany's concept of security, which must now “come of age,” in the words of German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius. The Bundeswehr, focused in recent times on international missions and humanitarian aid, must reorient itself towards national and Alliance defense, he said on Thursday when presenting the main lines of the new strategy. “The Army has to be able to defend the country in a war,” he stressed.

“The backbone of deterrence”

“War has returned to Europe with the brutal attack of [Vladímir] Putin to Ukraine," stated Pistorius, who insisted that Germany must take a step forward with a "necessary and profound" change of mentality in its entire security policy: "As the most populous and economically strong country in central Europe, Germany must to be the backbone of deterrence and collective defense in Europe.” Since 2000, Berlin has been dedicating between 1.1% and 1.4% of its Gross Domestic Product to defense spending, a far cry from the 3-4% it used during the Cold War.

Financing the change of era is presented as an obstacle for Scholz's coalition, made up of social democrats, greens and liberals. The Minister of Finance, the liberal Christian Lindner, is in favor of allocating more funds to the Army, but has made it very clear that the general budget cannot grow any larger. Lindner preaches the containment of public spending, which predicts new tensions and discussions within the Executive. If the military allocation is increased, there will be others that will have to be reduced, and the looming cuts in social spending and climate protection will undoubtedly cause friction with social democrats and greens.

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Despite the slowness with which the 100 billion euros of the special fund are being used, Scholz said he was satisfied with the pace of acquisitions. More than half and probably up to two-thirds of that pool will be contractually committed before the end of the year, he said. The Army has used that money to purchase F-35 fighter jets from the United States; in the Arrow 3 air defense system, acquired from Israel; the new heavy transport helicopters and the Puma infantry fighting vehicles.

Berlin's decision to buy the F-35 fighters, announced as early as March last year but which did not receive final approval from Parliament until last December, upset the French. Paris fears that the order to the United States could undermine the joint development of a Franco-German combat aircraft (also with Spanish participation) that should begin to fly through European skies in the 2040s. Both Scholz and Pistorius stressed their commitment to the project, known as FCAS. The minister directly denied recently published information suggesting that Germany could drop out over disputes over design and financing.

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