German defence spending will rise next year to 1.37 percent, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz announced today in his long-anticipated budget plan. But the US bristled at the announcement, not only because it was still way off President Trump’s target of two percent but also because Mr Scholz added the new figure would then drop to 1.29 percent by 2022, and to 1.25 percent by 2023. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said of the announcement: “I expect further increases.” US Ambassador Richard Grenell added “reducing its already unacceptable commitments to military readiness is a worrisome signal to Germany’s 28 NATO allies”.
In 2018, the US spent nearly £528billion ($ 700 billion) on defence, compared with just £211 billion ($ 280 billion) for all the European NATO allies combined.
And while German defence spending went up from $ 45billion to $ 50billion last year, Berlin’s growing economy has meant the figure relative to its GDP remained at a rate of 1.23 percent.
Just seven of the 29 NATO countries hit the alliance’s defence spending target in 2018, a bone of contention for President Trump.
Last month at the Munich Security Conference, German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen said the alliance was about fairness in collective decision-making, and not just money.
When pressed on spending Mr Trump’s demands for all NATO nations to pay the same amount, she said: “Yes, Nato is about cash and contributions but it is also about decency and dependability.”
Excluding the US, just six members hit the two percent target in 2018.
These were Britain, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
Mr Trump’s regular outbursts and tweets about European defence expenditure have sparked fears the NATO alliance could come to an end, with such fears being timely as NATO will this year celebrate its 70th anniversary.
When the Cold War came to an end in 1991, military budgets among EU member states steadily dwindled, before Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its growing aggressiveness made defence budgets a priority once again.
A report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) issued last month showed that NATO’s 27 European countries fell short of the two percent target by £76billion ($ 102billion) in 2018.
The report also said that European NATO members would “collectively have had to increase their spending by 38 percent” to hit the two percent target in 2018.