NATO and Germany: American swagger, German submissiveness

If Germany spent 2% GDP on defense, Germany by itself would surpass Russia's defense budget

Maas assures that Germany will keep its word
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American swagger, German submissiveness

Frank Elbe in

“NATO’s eastward enlargement was a policy driven by American domestic politics and the interests of the defense industry, and its political costs are still rising.”

A REPLY BY FRANK ELBE on April 8, 2019
At the NATO anniversary summit, Germany was again pressured to approach the two percent target. But let us not be impressed by the shrill criticism of US President Donald Trump. Because Germany has made significant contributions to the security of Europe

In 2019, NATO reaffirmed its goal of having each member state invest at least two percent of its gross domestic product in defense by 2024.

On the one hand: It is part of the loyalty of each alliance partners, even if they are not legally binding. This is all the more so when its forces are in such a dilapidated, only partially operational condition, as is the case with the Bundeswehr. Florian Keisinger had demanded that Germany and Europe should invest more in their defense.
However, we will not solve the problems if we allow ourselves to be impressed by the shrill criticism with which the American government is currently dealing with Germany. Germany owes NATO “huge sums of money,” said Donald Trump on Twitter. His country provides Germany a powerful and expensive defense. This must be paid for. Vice-President Mike Pence called Germany’s behavior at the NATO anniversary summit “unacceptable”.

Ignorance of Germany’s achievements

The US polemical force against the federal government is embarrassing not only because of the verbal injustice. It ignores that until the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany’s potentially primary battlefield was a dispute with the Warsaw Pact, and the Bundeswehr with 500,000 men – and a mobilization of 1.3 million active soldiers or reservists – carried the highest military contribution to the defense of the West.

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Our American friends also overlook the contribution that Germany made economically after reunification in order to stabilize the situation in Central Europe. After the reunification of Germany and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, a precarious security risk arose in Central Europe from the coexistence of different zones, prosperity and poverty, development and stagnation, and stability and instability. No other European nation has made a comparably high financial contribution to reduce the gap. This concerned the costs of building up the East, including financing the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the GDR, the bilateral support of our eastern neighbors and the financial participation in the achievements of the European Union, as well as courageous investments by the German economy. If the US wants to put Germany in the limelight, they should first consider whether they owe us respect.

Armaments without security policy pointless

Our American partners also seem to have forgotten that in the nuclear age, spending on armaments alone can not ensure peace. What is needed is a willingness to communicate, international readiness for dialog, observance of international law and, above all, respect for NATO’s tried and tested security strategy, which relies on a coexistence of adequate military security and a policy of détente, cooperation and disarmament. This observance made it possible to bring about the fall of the Berlin Wall without firing a single shot. We have a problem with the US that they can not or simply won’t remember this phase of a successful security policy. At present, the US considers Russia exclusively as an opponent, which it should exclude. This conflicts with our interests. They see the Ukraine crisis as a conflict in terms of securing and expanding spheres of interest. This makes it a proxy war on European soil. The conservative historian Michael Stürmer pointed out in the Welt of April 4, 2019, that NATO’s eastward enlargement was a policy driven by American domestic politics and the interests of the defense industry, and its political costs are still rising.

Dare more self-confidence

The Federal Government – probably as a consequence of a new generation – is remarkably unsafe in dealing with Russia and America. The understanding in dealing with Russia, but also with the United States has gotten lost. Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has assured that Germany will comply with its NATO commitment to increase defense spending towards two percent of economic output. “You have to stick to things that you have agreed upon”. That is correct in principle. Nevertheless, you cannot behave submissively. In 2014, when the two percent agreement was reached, there were legitimate prospects that a political solution to the Ukraine crisis could be reached in the foreseeable future. This hope has not been fulfilled because the US petrified rather than resolved the conflict. Engaging German interests in dealing with the US requires substantial dialogue at a high political level, bilaterally or in the Alliance. There are two main questions: what is the binding nature of the security policy doctrine of the 1967 Harmel Report for NATO and how do the partners view the alleged change in the threat situation? An increase in armaments expenditure would be just as conceivable as its reduction, if the assessment of the threat justifies it. Such an analysis can only be achieved in a responsible process. It is unacceptable that the US continues to dictate to its allies. In addition, the security assessments of the USA were often too flawed in the past.

In the future separate ways?

If the Federal Government – like Foreign Minister Maas – agrees to meet the two-percent target, he does not overlook the political significance of his statement: Because of its high GDP, if the NATO target were implemented, Germany, to reach this goal would have to spend more on armaments than Russia. For such a commitment, the time is completely wrong. It would be misunderstood and only contribute to further aggravating the situation. That may be in the American interest, but not in the European.

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