With the Trump administration gone, we can expect to see Berlin playing its traditional fanfare, praising the United States as Germany’s most important ally in security and defense policy. There is unison that Germany and Europe depend on America’s nuclear and conventional capabilities to protect itself. Thus, Berlin seeks to find ways to ensure that the US continues to commit to defending Europe while shifting its strategic focus to Asia. Berlin is currently striving in different ways to attract the US’s interest in Europe. On the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Bundeswehr, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier stated on November 12, 2020: "With regard to security policy, I see our country as having a dual responsibility. For Germany, the development of an EU capable of taking action in defense policy is as pressing as the expansion of the European pillar of NATO. We Germans must understand that a strong Europe is our investment in a transatlantic relationship. […] If we invest in Europe, then other Europeans will follow our lead. It will cost us more […]. But despite notable progress, it will be a long time before the European Union will be able to guarantee all its members’ security on its own. Counting solely and merely on the EU would mean driving a wedge through Europe. We will continue to urgently need the strongest and largest partner in the Alliance. But only a Europe with the desire and ability to protect itself credibly will have the best chances of keeping the United States in NATO".
The following five consequences arise from these statements for European defense:
- Germany’s security and defense efforts primarily serve the goal of preserving American security guarantees. The country will thus continue to increase efforts to improve the military capabilities of EU member states and to reliably boost its defense budget even in times of Covid-19. Both measures are seen as vehicles for defusing US criticism of the supposedly unfair burden-sharing in transatlantic security relations. In 2021, the German government will increase the defense budget by 1.3 billion euros to 46.93 billion euros. The government defended this increase in times of tight budget constraints with the argument that this budget sets the course for important projects, especially European ones. The NATO target of spending two percent of economic output on defense is something the German government wants to achieve by 2031. It is worth noting that the pandemic and the resulting shrunken gross domestic product are responsible for the fact that the Germans have approached this goal - without spending an additional cent - faster than expected: according to calculations by the Ministry of Defense, they will end up at 1.56 per cent this year.
- For a foreseeable time, Germany will not regard the EU as an alternative security structure for national and alliance defense. In the eyes of Berlin, the EU Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) is primarily a political project that helps to strengthen cohesion among member states and to give new impetus to EU integration. The German government avoids the notion "strategic autonomy". In November 2020, defense minister Kramp-Karrenbauer however made clear that "the idea of strategic autonomy for Europe goes too far if it is taken to mean that we could guarantee security, stability and prosperity in Europe without NATO and without the US. That is an illusion." In this respect, Germany might continue to disappoint its closest European partner, France. In February 2020 for example, President Macron’s offer to integrate the French nuclear arsenal into a common European defense strategy and to involve European partners in corresponding French military exercises fell on deaf ears in Berlin.
Add new comment