WASHINGTON – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday announced a dramatic about-face in Berlin’s defense policy, vowing to anchor a 100 billion (US $113 billion) euro defense fund in the country’s constitution and exceed a NATO-wide annual spending goal.
Prompted by Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the measures amount to a stunning reversal of decades of anemic defense funding, grown from the post-Cold War expectation that the country’s military posture would take a back seat to Germany’s economic and diplomatic might.
Speaking at a special session of the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, Scholz said moves to rebuild the country’s armed forces would amount to an “unprecedented, common effort” to which he would dedicate the power of his office.
The additional funds would help establish Germany as a “reliable and capable partner” with an “appropriate” role in the NATO alliance, Scholz said.
NATO allies have long pushed Germany to increase its defense spending to 2% of GDP, a goal enshrined at the 2014 alliance summit. Berlin currently spends upwards of $50 billion, or around 1.5% of GDP, on defense annually. Future German defense spending, Scholz said, would be “more” than 2%.
The chancellor also mentioned a number of big-ticket acquisition programs that would be pushed forward in the course of the country’s defense uptick. For example, a new atomic weapons-capable aircraft under NATO nuclear-sharing doctrine is on the table — Scholz named the F-35 as a candidate — as a replacement for the Air Force’s aging Tornado jets.
Also considered “priority projects,” according to Scholz, are the Future Combat Air System, developed in cooperation with France and Spain, as well as the “Eurodrone,” contracts for which were signed this week.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.