BERLIN — The German government under Chancellor Angela Merkel has approved plans to increase defense spending by 6.2 percent over the next five years — an extra €8 billion (US $8.5 billion) by 2019.
In 2016, the defense budget will rise by €1.2 billion euros to €34.2 billion. The extra funds will allow the defense ministry to push ahead with plans to reform and expand its armed forces as well as commit to a "widened NATO engagement," according to the draft budget. That includes involvement in the NATO response force to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which Merkel has warned could take a long time to resolve.
Germany currently spends about 1.2 percent of GDP on defense — that's less than the 2 percent recommended by NATO for members of the alliance.
The move comes as the country achieved its first balanced budget in over 40 years in 2014, giving it more leeway to boost spending. The increase also appears in part to be a reaction to the latest terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen. The national police force and the domestic security agency also received budget increases.
"These offices have to adjust to the threat of multiple attacks from small groups, radicalized individuals, as well as from experienced fighters with advanced weaponry," said German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere. "They need to be better equipped."