German lawmakers backed the approval of a €100 billion special fund to bolster the country’s armed forces.
The event gained broad support in the Chamber of Deputies after the ruling coalition led by Chancellor Olaf Schultz had long talks with the main opposition bloc. The creation of the fund was supported by a majority of 593 deputies, 80 deputies were against and 7 deputies abstained. The upper house of parliament, which represents Germany’s state governments, has yet to approve the plan.
Application of the amendment requires the approval of the upper house of parliament.
“This is a time when Germany says we are there when Europe needs us,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Birbock told members of the Green Party.
Three days before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz promised to allocate a special budget of 100 billion euros for the armament of the German army and the modernization of its obsolete equipment in the coming years.
But opponents have since accused the foreign minister of only supporting Kyiv and not taking enough concrete steps to supply Ukraine with weapons.
The government and opposition have agreed that defense spending will reach 2% on a “multi-year average” basis, with the help of a special fund. Authorities acknowledge that the Bundeswehr has suffered neglect over the years, especially due to outdated and faulty equipment.
Schultz’s left Social Democrats and the CDU, which led the government for 16 years under former Chancellor Angela Merkel, blamed each other. “He will not tolerate the shortcomings of the Bundeswehr for a second,” Foreign Minister Annalena Barbok told lawmakers on Friday.
“This is a historic day,” Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht told parliament, adding: “It’s a lot of money, but it’s well invested in the security and peace of our country.”
Earlier this week, Schultz said the planned spending spree was a quantum leap that would be welcomed in Paris, London, Washington and Warsaw. “Ultimately, Germany is taking responsibility for its security policy in the 21st century,” he added.
In negotiations with the Schultz coalition, the opposition insisted on using the fund exclusively for the Bundeswehr, rather than other national security issues such as stabilization assistance in poor countries or civilian cyber defense measures.
Some details on how the money would be spent were revealed. The Department of Defense has announced that it will purchase a 60 Boeing CH-47F Chinook transport helicopter. The government also wants to buy up to 35 Lockheed Martin fighter jets to replace aging Tornado planes.
On Friday, Russia criticized the move, accusing Germany of “rearmament” and using language that refers to the Nazi past.
“We consider this to be further proof that Berlin is on the path of a new rearmament,” said Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Zakharfa’s comments were more like a reference to Nazi Germany’s rearmament program in the 1930s under Adolf Hitler, which was thrown into WWII.
Of this amount, €40.9 billion will be allocated to the Air Force for the purchase of 35 North American F-35 fighter jets, 15 Eurofighters and 60 Chinook helicopters for military transport.
Approximately €20 billion will go to the Navy, mainly for the purchase of corvettes, frigates and Type 212 submarines.
It will also allocate more than 16 billion euros to the purchase of Marder and Fox model armored vehicles for the transport of soldiers.
The biggest army in Europe.
Schultz said this week the deal would “significantly bolster” the security of Germany and its NATO allies.
He told local media that “Germany will soon have the largest conventional army in Europe” under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The fund will be financed with debt.
To do so, it is necessary to circumvent the “debt containment” rule established by the Constitution, which sets the limit for public debt.
This forced the government to reach an agreement with the conservative opposition to obtain a two-thirds majority in parliament to pass a constitutional amendment.
The move is a significant change in German policy, which has reduced the number of its troops since the end of the Cold War, from around 500,000 troops in 1990 to 200,000 today.
According to a report published in December, less than 30% of German ships are “operating at full capacity”, while many fighters are not flying.