Tuesday 17th November 2020
After four years of Trump’s presidency, there is a growing awareness in Europe that an independent security policy is necessary. But while French President Macron insists on European sovereignty, German Defense Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer sees the situation soberly.
Despite sharp criticism from French President Emmanuel Macron, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer remains in her position that Europe will not be able to defend itself without the USA for the foreseeable future. “The idea of a strategic autonomy for Europe goes too far if it nurtures the illusion that we can guarantee security, stability and prosperity in Europe without NATO and without the USA,” said the CDU chairwoman in a keynote address.
Macron had previously criticized a similar statement by Kramp-Karrenbauer as a “misinterpretation of history” and spoke out in favor of European sovereignty in matters of defense. In her speech, Kramp-Karrenbauer agreed with Macron that Europe must do more for its security. “We want Europe to be a strong partner at eye level for the USA and not a needy protégé.”
At the same time, however, she made it clear that Europe could not do without the protection of the Americans. “Without America’s nuclear and conventional capabilities, Germany and Europe cannot protect themselves. Those are the sober facts,” she said. She pointed out that, for example, Europe was almost 100 percent dependent on the US to defend against ballistic missiles, and that the Americans also provided most of the nuclear weapons. In addition, 76,000 soldiers are stationed in Europe. “To compensate for all of this would take decades, according to serious estimates, and make our defense budgets today more than modest.”
The dispute over more European independence in defense matters is also a consequence of the four-year term in office of US President Donald Trump, who has called NATO into question, among other things. But Macron, too, has attested “brain death” to the transatlantic defense alliance and has long been campaigning for greater independence for Europe. After Great Britain leaves the EU, France is the only nuclear power in the European Union.
Fresh start after the Trump era
After Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the US presidential election, Europeans are now hoping for a fresh start in transatlantic relations. Chancellor Angela Merkel has already made it clear that the Europeans need to do more to achieve this. This also applies to the contribution to security cooperation in Europe and to the contribution to the NATO defense alliance, said the CDU politician at a conference of the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”.
For Kramp-Karrenbauer, three offers to the USA are important: First, a clear commitment by Germany to participate in the nuclear deterrent of NATO. The Bundeswehr is currently providing fighter jets for the dropping of US atomic bombs stored in Germany. Then a joint strategy with the US towards China. And finally, another increase in defense spending. Germany has so far clearly missed the NATO target of two percent of gross domestic product.
In order to guarantee the latter point, Kramp-Karrenbauer wants to legislate defense spending over a longer period of time. So far, they have only been decided by the Bundestag for the coming budget year. There is a medium-term financial plan for the next five years, but it is non-binding. A long-term line of financing for the armed forces is necessary “so that security is less of a plaything of the economy and short-term mood patterns, but rather remains steadily underpinned as an absolute core task of the state,” said the CDU politician.