Germany has committed to a historic investment in its military, pledging to finally meet its NATO treaty obligations in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the implementation of a $100 billion fund to upgrade and equip its armed forces over the weekend.
“We will now — year after year — invest more than two percent of our gross domestic product in our defence,” Scholz said Sunday, according to the German government’s website. “The goal is to ensure powerful, cutting-edge, progressive Federal Armed Forces that can be relied upon to protect us.”
He was speaking at an emergency session of Germany’s parliament spurred by Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.
“The horrific images from Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa and Mariupol show the whole ruthlessness of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” Scholz said, according to The National Interest. “It is clear that we need to invest significantly more in the security of our country in order to protect our freedom and our democracy.”
“We need planes that fly, ships that sail, and soldiers who are optimally equipped for their missions,” he said of the German Bundeswehr.
Germany will seek to develop a new battle tank and European aircraft, in addition to purchasing military drones from Israel, according to Politico.
NATO rules require member states to spend a sum equivalent to 2 percent of their yearly GDP on their defense.
Germany has been notoriously reluctant to meet this military funding commitment, instead opting to leave the burden of the alliance to the United States.
Will Germany finally meet its obligations?
The country spent 1.4 percent of its GDP on its military in 2020, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Former President Donald Trump had strongly pushed Germany to meet its 2 percent NATO obligation during his tenure.
He frequently criticized former Chancellor Angela Merkel for her refusal to fund the alliance.
In a July 2018 exchange with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, Trump spoke frankly about the issue — and presciently warned of Germany’s dependence on Russian oil.
“Germany is just paying a little bit over 1 percent, whereas the United States in actual numbers is paying 4.2 percent of a much larger GDP,” he said.
“Now this has been going on for decades. This has been brought up by other presidents. But other presidents never did anything about it. … I think it’s very unfair to our country, it’s very unfair to our taxpayers. And I think that these countries have to step it up. … Germany is a rich country,” Trump said.
Germany isn’t the only European country that has refused to meet its 2 percent NATO commitment for years. According to Statista, only a handful of alliance members meet the obligation.
On Tuesday, Trump appeared to take note of Germany’s new stance by sharing, via his spokeswoman, a CNBC story from 2017 headlined “Trump expresses ‘strong support’ for NATO, presses Merkel on paying dues.”
— Liz Harrington (@realLizUSA) March 1, 2022
Germany’s highest-ranking military chief recently slammed the state of his force in a scathing LinkedIn post, according to Fox News.
Lt. Gen. Alfons Mais had described the Bundeswehr as “more or less bare,” accusing the country’s leaders of utterly neglecting it.
Chief of Germany Army this morning: “The Bundeswehr, and the Army that I have the privilege to lead, is more or less stripped bare. The options that we can offer politicians to support the alliance are extremely limited.” https://t.co/hBFFb0QlfZ
— Tobias Schneider (@tobiaschneider) February 24, 2022
The Bundeswehr became a target of mockery after its soldiers had to use broomsticks as alternatives to heavy machine guns during a 2014 NATO training exercise in Norway.
In a 2014 NATO exercise, it seems that the German army was so under-equipped that soldiers had to replace heavy machine guns with broomsticks (literally). Some things were fundamentally off track for years. https://t.co/qC8xKxSpiT
— Bishoy Zaki (@Bishoy_Louis) February 26, 2022
It appears it took a real military invasion of a European country for Germany to meet its commitment.