US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel welcomes German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen to the Pentagon on Thursday. (Glenn Fawcett/DoD)
WASHINGTON — Germany plans to increase its defense budget in the coming years, however it is still expected to fall short of NATO spending guidelines.
But German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen argues that the percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) spent on defense is less important than how the money is spent.
“It’s not only a matter of 2 percent of the GDP, but it’s also a question of where you want to spend the money and how you want to spend the money,” she said Thursday at an Atlantic Council event.
In advance of September’s NATO summit in Wales, US officials have been steadily pushing alliance members to contribute at least 2 percent of GDP, a NATO spending guideline. Only the US, UK and Greece spend more than 2 percent GDP on defense.
Germany currently spends about 1.3 percent of its GDP on defense. In 2013, the country spent about $44 billion, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“There will be a slight increase in the next years,” von der Leyen said.
But Germany’s GDP has been growing, meaning defense expenditures look smaller.
“The German government budget is not growing as the GDP is growing,” von der Leyen said. “This is good news for the German economy.”
The minister said NATO nations should “find common capabilities [where] we want to invest.”
Von der Leyen’s trip to Washington was her first since becoming defense minister late last year. She met with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday morning where the upcoming NATO summit was among the topics discussed, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.
In May, Hagel called on NATO members to bring their country’s finance ministers to September’s ministerial meetings in Wales for defense investment discussions.■