Germans Want More Military
Even before the Paris attacks, big changes were afoot in Germany. Germans felt more unsafe than they had in a decade. They were demanding military spending and a greater role in solving the world’s crises. Statistics published by the Center for Military History and Social Sciences of the Bundeswehr on November 26 show a dramatic change in Germany.
The center surveyed more than 2,500 Germans during the two months prior to the Paris attacks. The results revealed that 51 percent of Germans now want Germany to spend more on its military. Only 13 percent wanted a cut. Two years ago, only 19 percent said they wanted to increase military spending.
This is the first time since the survey began in the mid-1990s that a majority of Germans have wanted to increase military spending. In 1997, 40 percent wanted to cut spending, while only 12 percent wanted it increased. Even in 2001, after the September 11 terrorist attacks, only 44 percent wanted to increase spending.
The survey asked Germans if their nation needed to be more involved in solving crises around the world or if it needed to instead focus on problems at home. Two thirds said that Germany must do more to help in the world’s crises and conflicts—only 27 percent wanted Germany to focus on domestic issues. Once again, this was the highest-ever support for international involvement and the lowest-ever support for focusing at home since the survey began.
Unsurprisingly, the most popular way of solving these problems was diplomatic negotiations. However, 57 percent were in favor of sending the German Army on military missions to fix these problems. Only 21 percent were against it.
The survey also pointed to an overall rise in fear and uncertainty. Twenty-three percent of those who responded said they felt the security situation in Germany was “very unsafe,” “unsafe” or “rather uncertain.” At first glance, that doesn’t sound very high—most see Germany as safe. But in 2014, that figure was 6 percent. In just one year, that number has increased fourfold. It’s now at its highest level since 2006.
What has caused this increase in insecurity? The most obvious answer is the migrant crisis—a crisis that is not going away any time soon. Again, all this German unease existed even before the Paris attacks. Every indication is that these figures will have now risen dramatically.
All this points to a historic shift in Germany’s attitude toward its military. For decades, the German public has been very reluctant to send its soldiers abroad. Over the past few years, top German leaders have spoken in favor of a more muscular German foreign policy and have taken some important steps in that direction. But public opinion has not backed them. Until now.
At the start of 2014, President Joachim Gauck, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier all lined up and proclaimed Germany’s new attitude toward its military and role in the world. “In my opinion, Germany should make a more substantial contribution, and it should make it earlier and more decisively if it is to be a good partner,” said Gauck. Now, public opinion is catching up to the beliefs of its leaders.
“Germany’s foreign policy has just been dramatically and historically transformed,” wrote Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry on the 2014 pivot. He continued, “Since then, the message coming from Germany—from Steinmeier and von der Leyen, from lower level government officials, from Germany’s media, and from numerous German analysts and think tanks—has been loud and consistent: The time has come to pursue a much stronger foreign policy, both militarily and politically.”
Since then, there has been a marked shift in Germany’s foreign policy, with the nation sending small numbers of troops to the world’s hotspots.
But in 2014, the public wasn’t completely on board with this shift—it was imposed from the top. Now public opinion has swung behind these leaders. Germany’s shift to a global military power is only going to intensify.