Germany will meet NATO’s target of devoting 2% of its annual GDP to military spending “as early as next year”, Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the Bundestag on Thursday.
“We will ensure that the federal army finally receives the equipment it needs (…) by spending 2% of our GDP on defence again from next year for the first time in decades”, he announced.
The chancellor had previously mentioned 2025 as the date for meeting this target.
Germany’s longtime failure to meet the 2% defence spending threshold has sometimes been a sore spot for other NATO member states, in particular the US, where right-wing leaders including Donald Trump have accused it of taking advantage of the alliance’s benefits while falling short of its expected contributions.
The war in Ukraine, however, has brought about a major transition in German defence policy. The country has pledged ammunition and arms to the Ukrainian military in volumes unthinkable as recently as two years ago.
Scholz, who became chancellor less than two months before Russia invaded Ukraine, announced in February 2022 that his government was setting up a “special fund” for the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, to enable it to fully support the fight against the Russian invasion.
He grounded his decision to increase military spending and unambiguous backing for Ukraine in a historical narrative of European security in which Germany occupies a particular place.
“Many of us still remember our parents’ or grandparents’ tales of war. And for younger people it is almost inconceivable – war in Europe. Many of them are giving voice to their horror – across the country, including just outside in front of the Reichstag.
“We are living through a watershed era. And that means that the world afterwards will no longer be the same as the world before. The issue at the heart of this is whether power is allowed to prevail over the law. Whether we permit Putin to turn back the clock to the 19th Century and the age of the great powers, or whether we have it in us to keep warmongers like Putin in check.
“That requires strength of our own.”