The North Atlantic Alliance has approved a new formula for contributions to the general budget. According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, a change in the financing system was approved by all members of the organization, including Germany, which will have to fork out more than others. Now Germany is filling the treasury of the alliance by 14% of the total, the United States – by 22%. But soon the share of Berlin will increase to 16%, and Washington will drop to the same level (the remaining amount will be distributed among other countries). That is, the Americans neatly shift the burden of financing NATO to the Germans.
Obviously, the trigger for the reform was the desire of the Donald Trump administration to save on the collective security system. For the past three years, the White House owner has been harshly criticizing Europeans for not allocating enough funds for military needs. A notice came even from the Washington Regional Committee: to bring the defense budget to 2% of GDP (in the long term – to 4%). EU countries carry it out with varying degrees of enthusiasm. The Baltic republics, for example, have quickly reached the declared parameters and are dreaming of overfulfilling the plan.
But in Western Europe, the Trump initiative is sabotaged. For Germany, the defense budget is a sore subject. It would seem that more and more funds are being allocated for the needs of the Bundeswehr (next year this amount will increase from 47.32 to 49.67 billion euros). But it still stands out less than Washington requires. 2% of GDP in the German Ministry of Defense is promised to be achieved only by 2031. At the same time, the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline will start operating in the middle of next year, which is why the US president scolds the government of Angela Merkel by an order of magnitude tougher than the rest of the “fines”.
– After the construction of the new pipeline, more than 70% of natural gas supplies will come to Germany from Russia. We must protect you, and you are giving away billions of dollars to Russia, – Trump resented.
Reverse towards the United States was the project to build the first LNG terminal in Germany. It is likely that small volumes of American liquefied natural gas will be delivered to the Federal Republic of Germany through this sophisticated method, the Germans have to pay a “friendship tax” with their overseas allies. Changing NATO’s content system can also be seen as a kind of revision of US tariff policy.
So far, we are talking about rather modest, even insignificant amounts. The budget of the North Atlantic Alliance is not the aggregate defense budget of all participating countries, but just a small “common fund” that is used to operate the organization’s apparatus (for example, to maintain headquarters). For Germany, the new rules will result in annual overpayments of € 33 million – not too much money for Europe’s largest economy. And the US, with the proceeds, is going to finance a number of security programs in Ukraine and Georgia.
In general, recently, representatives of the Federal Republic of Germany have been demonstrating loyalty to NATO. When French President Emmanuel Macron announced the “brain death” of the alliance, Merkel publicly criticized him and solidified with Jens Stoltenberg’s position. A little later, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas made his diagnosis: “NATO is alive and well from head to toe.”
Against the background of news about the changed rules for the organization’s budget formation, the German Chancellor decided to sing the hornet for the Americans. According to her, the Germans should be grateful to their overseas friends, without which Europe would not be able to protect itself.
However, it is not only a matter of the natural flexibility of the federal government of Angela Merkel and her desire to smooth out all the sharp corners in relations with Washington. For an adequate assessment of the situation, one must not forget about the contradictions within Europe itself.
According to The New York Times, a black cat ran between Merkel and Macron: at a dinner in honor of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Frau Angela chastised the young French president for “pursuit of destructive politics.” Obviously, we are talking not only about the destruction of the usual Euro-Atlantic way of life, but also about the revision of the role of France on the continent.
For Germany, a further increase in military spending involves both the idea of maintaining its leading role on the European continent and the idea of gaining real sovereignty.
The increase of military budget caused a lively discussion among German politicians, – notes Artem Sokolov, researcher at the Center for European Studies at IMI MGIMO.
Such parties as the SPD, the Greens and the Left traditionally take on conditionally pacifist positions, critically perceiving the growth of defense spending. The object of numerous claims is often the inefficient spending of budget funds by the military leadership. Many claims on this score were brought against former defense minister Ursula von der Leyen. At the same time, the German leadership has an understanding that it is impossible to solve the accumulated problems in the Bundeswehr without additional financial injections.
– According to German press reports, an increase in NATO maintenance costs will result in annual overpayments of € 33 million for the German budget. The amount is small, but will the idea of shifting the burden of financing the alliance to the Germans and not the French, for example, not cause discontent in Germany?
– Since the founding of new German statehood in 1949, the FRG has sought to position itself as the main European ally of the United States. Unlike France, which has allowed indicative turbulence in relations with an overseas partner since De Gaulle, Germany avoided claims of independence within Euro-Atlantic unity. Following this logic, additional financial obligations on such an important aspect as defense can in some sense be considered even as a privilege. Distrust in the Trump administration among the German establishment is significant, but so far has not affected the foundation of US-German relations. Reputational risks in this aspect are relatively small.
– Recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Germany should take more responsibility for NATO unity in Europe and thank the United States for the existence of the alliance. Agreeing with the new financing system, does Germany really pretend to strengthen its position in Europe?
In recent years, the German leadership has actively promoted the idea of a more active role of Germany and the EU in the world. The economic power of Germany is still not aligned with Berlin’s foreign policy capabilities. An increase in defense spending may serve, for example, as an argument for sending the Bundeswehr troops to new international missions.
If Macron is harshly criticizing NATO, then Merkel and the company support the alliance. Can this be seen as part of the confrontation between Berlin and Paris for leadership in Europe?
Today, the German-French tandem is trying to act as the organizational core of the EU, capable of turning Europe into an independent player. The conciliatory statements of German and French politicians do not cancel the numerous contradictions within the tandem, which manifested themselves even after the signing of the Aachen treaty. The political life of Paris and Berlin is out of sync. At the same time, there is an understanding that without the synergy of the political and economic potential of France and Germany, the prospects for the European project are uncertain. In this sense, talking about the “confrontation” of the two largest European states will be an exaggeration.