Germany to put 2 percent NATO spending pledge in writing
Berlin plans to make the first-of-its-kind commitment in a much-delayed national security strategy due next month.
BERLIN — Germany will soon commit itself for the first time in writing to hitting NATO’s 2 percent defense spending target, according to several people familiar with the plan.
The pledge will come as part of an upcoming national security strategy, the first of its kind. The document has faced several delays as Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-party ruling coalition squabbled over the specifics.
The group has now agreed, however, to enshrine a vow to spend 2 percent of Germany’s economic output on defense, according to the people who have seen the 40-plus-page document and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations. That would put the country in line with a long-standing NATO goal that many allies, including Germany, have struggled to meet.
Scholz has previously made verbal commitments to hitting the 2 percent threshold as part of the country’s Zeitenwende, or major u-turn, on defense policy. But inserting that goal into the national security strategy became a point of contention among Scholz’s ruling coalition.
The Greens, who govern with Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats and the business-friendly Free Democrats, pushed for more flexibility, arguing defense spending may vary over the years.
The party had to ultimately give in on that point, according to the people with knowledge of the text. However, the Greens may get some concessions that Germany also aims to raise spending for soft power measures, such as development and humanitarian aid, crisis prevention, and diplomatic and cultural engagement.
The government has also had to drop plans to erect a U.S.-style National Security Council, as POLITICO first reported last month, after the idea hit roadblocks over where it would be housed within the government.
The written 2 percent goal will now put Scholz under pressure to deliver on his spending promises. Germany is currently on track to miss the 2 percent target this year and there are doubts about whether it can be reached next year.
Defense Minister Boris Pistorius is already pushing Scholz and Finance Minister Christian Lindner to ramp up Germany’s annual defense budget from €50 billion to €60 billion next year. Moreover, there is pressure to speed up the purchase of new military equipment via a special €100 billion fund meant to rapidly modernize the armed forces.
On Tuesday, Germany’s Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces Eva Högl criticized that “not a single euro or cent has been spent” from the €100 billion pot, a year after it was announced.
During the presentation of an annual report, Högl argued that the German Bundeswehr is facing striking shortcomings in nearly all areas and argued that both defense spending and the speed of procurement must be increased to swiftly reach the 2 percent goal.
The German government now aims to finalize the security strategy — which it had initially planned to present at last month’s Munich Security Conference — later next month. Once the document is adopted, it will also be published.
The government is also currently discussing a forthcoming China strategy, which it wants to adopt following the national security strategy.