America Is Pushing Germany to Become ‘the Leading Military Power in Europe’
United States Defense Secretary James Mattis gave European nations a blunt ultimatum at a meeting of nato defense ministers on Wednesday: Spend more, or lose U.S. support.
“No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defense of Western values,” he said. “Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do.”
“America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense,” he warned.
His statements echo warnings that U.S. President Donald Trump made throughout his campaign. But for European capitals, hearing these warnings from Mattis is significant. They had hoped that Mr. Mattis—a strong supporter of nato—would change Mr. Trump’s mind.
Mattis said that ministers need to set firm dates for European nations to meet the nato target level of defense spending—2 percent of economic output. Thus far, this target has been a vague commitment that almost all European nato members have failed to meet.
These calls for nato to do more, however, boil down to one thing: Germany stepping up. Fabrice Pothier explained this in an article published by Politico on Wednesday titled “nato Survival Will Depend on Germany.”
With Europe’s largest gdp [gross domestic product] and by far its strongest economy, Germany is the swing state in European defense. If Berlin commits to spending the recommended 2 percent of gdp on defense, it would add $30 billion of defense spending in Europe—a large share of the $100 billion surplus that would be generated if all European members and Canada met their targets. The move would significantly boost European defense.
Pothier explains that other nations will find it very hard to step up:
Other important European players—such as Italy, Spain and the Netherlands—are either too small or too economically weak to have much of an effect on the European defense balance. In this scenario, Germany’s $30 billion could make all the difference between a stronger Europe or a weaker one.
Thus, it all comes down to Germany—the only nato power in Europe that could turn the Continent’s military power around. However, this raises an important problem.
“The question, however, is whether Germany can—or indeed should—become the leading military power in Europe,” writes Pothier (emphasis added throughout).
That is right: Germany becoming the leading military power in Europe is the automatic and inevitable consequence of a boost to European military spending.
But this means big changes for Germany. As Pothier points out, “The German defense ministry has secured some hard-won increases” to its budget, and both the chancellor and finance minister have agreed to the increases. But it still falls far short of what Mr. Trump wants.
Beyond simply the money, Mr. Trump is pushing Germany to transform quite radically. As Pothier writes:
Getting Germany to punch closer to its weight will not be easy. Berlin’s next coalition in the Bundestag will have to break with two powerful dogmas of post-World War ii Germany: a balanced budget and a pacifist mindset.
Both ideas are deeply entrenched in Germany’s political culture and institutions.
But change is not impossible:
But should [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel be reelected and commit to greater military spending, it would not be the first time the pragmatic chancellor instigated a radical shift with incremental steps. Just look at her refugee policy or her firm stance against Russia, which clashes with major German industrial interests and coalition partners.
Germany’s postwar doctrines are not as intractable as they seem. One of Merkel’s own predecessors, Konrad Adenauer, already partly broke with one when he decided to rearm Western Germany against the advice of many in his own party in the early 1950s.
Mattis comments come as defense leaders and experts around the world gather for the Munich Security Conference, which begins Friday. The paper released ahead of the Munich Security Conference shows European leaders are keen to do more on their defense:
Europe is faced with a wide array of threats, which most experts say can best be tackled through joint European responses. Challenges not only include the ongoing crisis with Russia in the East, protracted wars to the South, or Islamist terrorist attacks in the heart of European cities, but also the uncertainty about the transatlantic security partnership and about the United States’ commitment to European security.
Over the past months, this has brought more and more Europeans to recognize the need for a strong European Union. Particularly when it comes to the EU’s role in the world, a clear majority of EU citizens is now calling for greater engagement. If the EU wants to prove to itself and to its skeptics in and outside Europe that it is capable of being a “superpower that believes in multilateralism and in cooperation,” as [EU Foreign Policy Chief] Federica Mogherini recently put it, a common foreign policy strategy backed with sufficient military power is widely seen as a strategic necessity. In many European capitals, this has already triggered a trend reversal in defense expenditures.”
nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that this year will be “the third consecutive year of increased defense spending in Europe.” However, their report focuses more on EU efforts to work together, writing:
In order to improve joint foreign and security policy making, the EU not only presented a new Global Strategy but has also taken a bundle of concrete measures to boost European cooperation in security and defense as part of the EU Security and Defense Package. Other ideas include a European semester on defense, a “Schengen of Defense,” as well as the highly controversial notion of a European Army.”
Whether the new momentum will translate into a truly new level of EU cooperation will primarily depend on the member states themselves. … But when, if not now, should Brussels’ clout in the world ever be on top of the menu?
In the short term, working together is probably a lot easier, politically, than spending more. But America will clearly keep pushing for Europe to have a bigger military budget.
American officials seem well aware that pushing Europe to do more means making Germany “the leading military power in Europe.”
“Don’t hide behind your history,” former President Barack Obama has exhorted Germany.
“The world today does not fear a strong Germany,” Der Tagesspiegel recorded Mr. Obama as saying. “It is, rather, disappointed when Germany is too reserved.”
America, said Herbert W. Armstrong, “can only see one enemy at a time, and I want to tell you that the United States has more than one enemy.” It worries about radical Islam and Russia but is blind to the danger of encouraging a strong, united, German-led military power in Europe.
It is not just Herbert W. Armstrong who warned against a militarily powerful united Europe. Renowned geopolitical thinker Nicholas Spykman wrote that “[a] federal Europe would constitute an agglomeration of force that would completely alter our significance as an Atlantic power and greatly weaken our position in the Western Hemisphere.” America’s own foreign-policy experts of previous generations saw the folly in what America is doing. But both the Trump and Obama administrations have been encouraging Germany to do more and spend more.
The Trumpet and the Plain Truth before us have consistently warned about America’s friendship with Germany. For a summary of these warnings, and how they are already coming to pass, read our article “How America’s Friendship With Germany Will End.”