The Corner

National Security & Defense

Why Europeans Won’t ‘Take Their Fate into Their Own Hands’

From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Why Europeans Won’t ‘Take Their Fate into Their Own Hands’

German chancellor Angela Merkel last weekend: “We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands — naturally in friendship with the United States of America, in friendship with Great Britain, as good neighbors with whoever, also with Russia and other countries. But we have to know that we Europeans must fight for our own future and destiny. . . . The times in which we could rely fully on others — they are somewhat over. This is what I experienced in the last few days.”

Percentage of GDP that a NATO member country is supposed to spend on defense: 2 percent.

Percentage of GDP that Germany is spending on defense: 1.2 percent.

German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel in March: “There is no apodictic 2 percent goal but rather . . . we should be moving in that direction.” (“Apodictic” means beyond dispute. Don’t feel bad, I had to look it up, too.)

Gabriel’s estimate of how much it would cost Germany to get to 2 percent: 30 billion Euros over eight years, or roughly $33 billion.

That’s roughly $4.1 billion per year. That is not a lot of money in the overall German federal budget or economy. Total German federal spending in 2017 is roughly $349 billion. The German GDP is about $3.3 trillion.

For further perspective, U.S. defense spending in 2017 is about $611 billion. The Pentagon will spend about $2 billion just upgrading the U.S.S. George Washington aircraft carrier in the coming year.

A bit more than $4 billion per year is not a lot to ask. That’s about 40 percent of Amazon sales from last year.

If the Germans really want to “take our fate into our own hands,” providing for their own defense is going to cost them way more than just meeting the NATO threshold. The cost of one F-35 fighter jet is $94 million to $123 million, depending on which variation. The cost of one Eurofighter is roughly $112 million. That’s not covering fuel, spare parts, training, maintenance and operations, repairs . . . 

So the Germans are so upset about the expectation that they spend another eight-tenths of 1 percent of their GDP on the military, that they’re willing to go their own way on defense? Talk about being penny-wise and pound-foolish. My suspicion is that Germans will look at the cost of defending themselves from Russia or other potential hostile forces on their own and then happily get out the checkbook to cover that eight-tenths of 1 percent that NATO wants.

As our new guy, Michael Brendan Dougherty, puts it, “How many aircraft carriers, nuclear subs, and fighter jets has Germany christened in these four months? How much closer has Germany come to military parity with Russia? What do you think Poland or Latvia thinks of trusting Germany for political and military protection, absent the United States? C’mon, everyone. Get a grip.”