COLOGNE, Germany — Following Germany’s vote in September to give Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union another term as chancellor, parties continue to negotiate the objectives of the new government. Here’s a rundown of key national security topics that are up for grabs in a likely coalition of the CDU, the Free Democratic Party and the Green Party:
Military spending: Germany’s military spending in 2016 was roughly $41 billion, or 1.2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The Merkel government has subscribed to the NATO goal of increasing that share to 2 percent, so there is little reason to expect a change in Germany’s position. The Greens, as the smallest coalition partner with 8.9 percent of voter support, have rejected a defense-spending target, arguing that nonmilitary expenses for crisis response are getting the short shrift in such an equation.
It’s likely that spending on United Nations and European Union defense projects will see a new emphasis in a final, binding coalition declaration, according to Christian Mölling, an analyst at the Berlin-based think tank German Council on Foreign Relations. That is because non-NATO initiatives are currently considered more palatable across the parties, he said.
Defense exports: Previous plans by German tank-maker Rheinmetall for something of a bridgehead facility in Turkey to the Middle Eastern market has renewed the discussion about exporting German weapons to regimes believed to commit human rights violations. The Social Democratic Party of Germany, now out of government, and the Greens are proving particularly vocal on this issue, advocating for a more restrictive policy. The CDU, which at 33 percent of votes in September’s election is the largest bloc, likely wants to preserve the status quo, while the Free Democratic Party (10.7 percent) could go either way.
Armed drones: War by UAVs remains a thorny topic in Germany. Berlin doesn’t like what it considers lax U.S. policies governing drone strikes to kill terrorists, and politicians are wary of a largely hostile public opinion on the subject. At the same time, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Defence has said for years it needs those weapons to ensure the safety of soldiers during deployments.
Over the summer, lawmakers with the Social Democratic Party of Germany pulled a budget proposal from parliamentary consideration that would have funded a handful of Israeli Heron TP drones use by the Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces. The lawmakers argued that the subject of lethal aerial drones had not been sufficiently debated.
Whether that debate will now occur is an open question. Some resistance in the negotiations can be expected from the Greens and potentially from the Free Democratic Party, while the CDU is expected to continue to pursue a deal for the weapons. In the end, the negotiators may shirk a public policy declaration altogether, putting the topic back on the agenda until the next time the Israeli drones come up.
Acquisition programs: The agreement reached by the governing parties, called the Koalitionsvertrag in German, likely will stay true to the age-old political preference for vagueness. So don’t expect to see details on specific military programs, noted Mölling. But, he added, it’s likely the document will endorse a re-energized alliance between Germany and France, which the two countries’ leaders have been talking up for months. Wrapped up in that, the analyst argued, would be a commitment to European-managed defense programs, including a new-generation fighter aircraft and tanks.
Nuclear weapons: The Greens have traditionally advocated for global nuclear disarmament, and it’s likely that a final agreement will contain some language to that effect. At the same time, the CDU and the Free Democratic Party have said they want to preserve Germany’s role in NATO deterrence by continuing to host U.S. nuclear weapons on German soil and by providing delivery aircraft for them. But the current fleet of Tornado aircraft is nearing the end of its life cycle, presenting yet another issue the new German government must tackle once it’s in place.