Not bearing the burden. At $4 trillion, Germany’s economy is a fifth the size of America’s. But Germany’s military budget isn’t a fifth of America’s military spending. It isn’t even a tenth. In recent years Berlin has spent 1.1% of its GDP on defense compared with over 3% for the U.S. Under prodding from Trump, the Germans have agreed to raise their defense budget by several billion dollars this year, to 1.3% of GDP. But NATO members have supposedly committed to reaching 2% by 2024, and the German government says it isn’t likely to get above 1.5% in that year—even though chancellor Angela Merkel agrees this raises doubts about “Germany’s credibility.”
Not ready for a war. Berlin says it can’t sensibly spend much more than it already plans for military forces. But German media have repeatedly documented the depressed state of readiness in those forces. For instance, Der Spiegel reported last year that only four of Germany’s 128 Eurofighter Typhoons were ready for combat. The country is supposed to maintain 82 fighters in a high state of readiness to meet alliance commitments Other reports have noted that only one of the country’s submarines can deploy on short notice; that most of Germany’s tanks are in a low state of readiness; and that barely a quarter of its nuclear-capable Tornado tactical aircraft are operational. Obviously, Berlin isn’t expecting a war anytime soon.
Turning to Russia for energy. Germany obtains about 40% of the natural gas it consumes from Russia. A Baltic pipeline called Nord Stream 2 will double the potential for Russian imports. NATO and European Union countries alike have objected to building the new pipeline, but Berlin has been adamant about proceeding even though there are other sources for Germany’s energy needs. Washington’s complaints that greater dependence on Russian gas will strengthen Moscow’s hand in a future east-west confrontation have gone unheeded. As the respected British publication The Economist observed in a February 16 editorial, “The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is a Russian trap and Germany has fallen into it.”
Much more at the link.
Backing out of NATO in the face on Russian aggression would be a mistake, but the bigger mistake was letting the alliance live on past victory in the Cold War, and then expanding it. We could and should have maintained military ties with Europe in the post-Cold War world, as part of an ongoing entente cordiale. But expanding the alliance right up to (and in the case of the Baltic States, inside of) the Soviet Union’s old borders stoked Russian paranoia, while incentivizing member states like Germany and France to stop taking seriously their own security.