Germany pledges to raise military spending, play more active role in NATO

"NATO is pretty much alive, from head to toe, even if there are other diagnoses," Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Tuesday (26 November) at the opening the Berlin Foreign Policy Forum organised by the Körber Foundation EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET [Olivier Hoslet/ epa]

Germany has pledged to play a more active role in NATO with Chancellor Angela Merkel promising to raise military spending to 2% of the country’s GDP by the beginning of the 2030s. EURACTIV Germany reports.

“NATO is pretty much alive, from head to toe, even if there are other diagnoses,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Tuesday (26 November) at the opening the Berlin Foreign Policy Forum organised by the Körber Foundation.

Maas was responding to French President Emmanuel Macron who made controversial statements earlier this month regarding NATO’s “brain death” and lack of internal coordination.

Although he acknowledged “some coordination problems” at times, NATO remains the cornerstone of Europe’s multilateral commitment to security policy, he added.

At a meeting that gathered foreign ministers from NATO countries in Brussels a week ago, Maas proposed setting up a committee of experts to discuss reforms aimed at restructuring the alliance.

France's Macron decries NATO 'brain death' ahead of anniversary

European countries can no longer rely on the United States to defend NATO allies, French President Emmanuel Macron warned in an interview on Thursday (7 November), only weeks ahead of a meeting of NATO leaders in London, supposed to mend the widening cracks in the Western military alliance.

At the same time, Maas called for the EU’s role in NATO to be strengthened.

“Europe must have more responsibility for its security in the future. It is no longer possible to rely solely on the US for security policy,” Maas said.

One of the goals of the German EU Presidency next year will, therefore, be to “make EU foreign policy more cohesive and more effective,” he said. This would also apply in relation to China.

Ukraine conflict ‘overlooked’

Maas also emphasised Germany’s efforts to settle the Ukrainian crisis. This is “often overlooked because of the dramatic events in Syria, Iraq or Iran. We must not forget that the war in Ukraine, in which 10,000 people have already died, is the actual war that’s on our doorstep,” Maas stated.

The minister referred to the upcoming Ukrainian summit, which is set to take place in the so-called ‘Normandy format’ on 9 December in Paris. There, the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine are expected to talk about further steps towards de-escalation, mediated by Germany and France.

The last summit carried out in Normandy format took place in Berlin in 2016. The talk back then was all about implementing a ceasefire agreement struck a year before in Minsk to end fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

This time, the upcoming Paris meeting will discuss a special status demanded by Russia for the Donetsk and Luhansk territories occupied by separatists. Most recently, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Selenskyj, had agreed to such an idea as a temporary solution.

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Russia and Ukraine need a sense of urgency in their talks on gas transit for Europe, the European Union’s energy chief said after the latest round in Brussels on Monday (28 October) failed to yield progress.

Merkel commits to NATO’s 2% target

Wednesday’s general debate at the Bundestag also turned to Turkey’s role in the US-led military alliance.

Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasised that Turkey needs to remain a member of NATO “for geo-strategic reasons”, even if the country is a problematic partner. Like her foreign minister, Merkel also highlighted NATO’s importance these days.

“The need to preserve NATO today is more important, or at least as important as it was during the Cold War,” the Chancellor said.

Merkel also showed clear support for of her Defence Minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. For the first time, she promised to increase Germany’s defence spending to 2% of the country’s GDP, heeding US calls for Germany to play a more active part in the alliance.

The 2% target will be reached by the beginning of the 2030s, Merkel said, with an intermediate target of 1.5% by 2024. NATO had already agreed in 2014 to increase its members’ defence spending to 2% of GDP.

NATO braces for the new space age

NATO foreign ministers have formally recognised outer space as the fifth military frontier alongside air, land, sea and cyber on Wednesday (20 November), in response to growing concerns over protecting satellite and navigation assets from enemy interference.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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