Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is calling for Berlin to take steps by 2024 to raise German military spending to 2% of gross domestic product. The number is NATO's stated target for domestic military budgets, and a frequent demand of US President Donald Trump. That would mean an increase in spending in the double-digit billions of euros.
Kramp-Karrenbauer, who succeeded Chancellor Angela Merkel as leader of the Christian Democrats (CDU) late last year, made the statement in an interview published in the Sunday edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. She said the government would attempt to meet NATO's target, but added it would "not be achieved overnight."
With an unpredictable economy and tax revenue down, the government has cut the 2020 budget — diminishing Germany's prospects of reaching 2%. NATO members had agreed to the figure back in 2014.
Kramp-Karrenbauer said Germany "really needs to move in this direction." She said she would put that position before the Cabinet and the coalition committee "as minister and party leader."
Granting Trump's 'wishes'
The defense minister risks forging "a policy of building up the military according to the wishes of Donald Trump," Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, the acting leader of the Social Democrats (SPD), told the Redaktionsnetzwerks Deutschland for an article published in newspapers Monday.
He said governing parties had agreed to the budget — including Bundeswehr spending — and that meant the issue was closed for now. The SPD is the junior party in Merkel's governing coalition.
Schäfer-Gümbel's party colleagues were less generous in their assessment of the defense minister's plans. "I'm amazed that Frau Kramp-Karrenbauer has so quickly reopened this debate," SPD General-Secretary Lars Klingbeil told newspapers belonging to the Funke Mediengruppe. He said the party would not allow Trump to dictate Germany's military spending: "There's nothing doing for that with the SPD," he said, "and we have already clarified that within the coalition many times."
The Greens, Germany's top party according to public support, have also indicated they will not back Kramp-Karrenbauer's plan. Party co-leader Robert Habeck told the public broadcaster ZDF that "we need a functional army, which is not above all a question of money." He said Kramp-Karrenbauer would need to "clean up" the military and only then could the funding be discussed.