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Germany is significantly boosting military spending amidst Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

Germany recently unveiled an unprecedented national security strategy, a resolute effort to strengthen political and policy frameworks amidst Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and the transformative shifts in Europe’s security dynamics. This strategy counters not only Russia’s immediate threat but also hybrid threats encompassing climate change, pandemics, global hunger, poverty, disinformation, and cyberattacks.

Germany has embraced a holistic view of its security landscape, factoring in a variety of societal elements. The country asserts Russia as the most significant security concern for Europe in the foreseeable future, condemning Russia’s military action in Ukraine as a breach of the UN Charter’s principles and a subversion of the established European security system. This development necessitates Germany to foster a strategic norm that encapsulates Europe’s comprehensive geopolitical and security interests. A key focus is also the modern transformation of the German military.

In response to the Russia-Ukraine war, Germany has pledged more than $100 billion to a dedicated defense fund, emerging as the fourth-largest contributor of military assistance to Ukraine. In 2023, Berlin announced an additional commitment of $2.95 billion in military aid, nearly doubling the previous amount. From Germany’s perspective, Russia’s investment in both conventional and nuclear armaments poses a considerable threat to Europe’s strategic stability. Berlin has witnessed Russia’s systematic efforts to destabilize democratic societies in Europe, undermine the European Union and NATO, and prioritize its own interests in global policy. This event marks a significant shift for Germany, which has traditionally maintained a diplomatic rapport with Russia, which up until recently was Europe’s primary energy supplier.

The strategy document further elucidates Berlin’s aim to mitigate the country’s dependency on Russian energy and raw materials. Simultaneously, the document signals caution regarding China’s attempts to reconfigure the global system through systematic competition. Historically, Germany has shied away from provoking China, a critical market for German exports and a vital supplier of essential commodities. However, Berlin recognizes China as a multifaceted entity: a partner, competitor, and systemic rival. Despite this, China remains an indispensable partner in addressing some of the world’s most pressing global challenges.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 exposed the vulnerabilities of Europe and affirmed the concerns of former Soviet-bloc countries who are now members of the European Union and NATO. For these nations, Russia poses the greatest threat to Euro-Atlantic peace and security. Consequently, Germany has stressed the need for a more integrated European approach to foreign and security policies, one that responds proactively to geopolitical developments.

The war in Ukraine has highlighted the deficiencies within the European armed forces, the overreliance on Russian energy resources, and the necessity to protect crucial infrastructure such as gas pipelines. In this context, the strategy outlines a connection between European security and economic development, reminding European leaders of Russia’s strategic manipulation of energy dependencies to undermine and pressure democratic nations.

Germany aims to leverage the full potential of the European Union’s trade agreements to enhance resilience, security, and prosperity while endorsing the EU’s Critical Raw Materials Act. By doing so, it could produce more concrete proposals for the EU’s internal market, foster coordination with other member states, and promote economic diversification – a vital step in integrating economic security within the EU paradigm.

The same notion underlies Germany’s commitment to preserving trans-Atlantic relations with the United States. Following the strategic document’s announcement, the German government declared plans to develop a comprehensive strategy for enhancing Germany’s capacity to counteract hybrid threats. The escalating war in Ukraine has amplified Germany’s concerns about its military readiness, prompting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to commit to a significant increase in military spending. Germany now acknowledges that peace and security go beyond diplomacy and trade relations and require a robust military capability.

While this national security strategy underlines the need for a credible deterrent and a comprehensive approach towards nontraditional security threats, it doesn’t fully address concerns about hard power in emerging competition domains. Germany plans to increase its investments in defense, diplomacy, financial stability, and development cooperation in Europe. Yet, it’s essential for the EU to evaluate the potential impacts on other member states due to Germany’s intensified investments in security, and to develop an inclusive, comprehensive security strategy accordingly.

However, Germany’s National Security Strategy does exhibit certain limitations. It somewhat ambiguously identifies threats, overlooking several urgent concerns, including non-traditional threats like terrorism, extremism, organized crime, illicit financial flows, cyber-attacks, and disinformation campaigns. Notably absent is any reference to potential challenges to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Although China continues to be recognized as a multifaceted state, the escalating rivalry in the relationship needs acknowledgment.

Germany’s National Security Strategy addresses both internal and external security risks with an integrated approach that surpasses traditional military and counterterrorism considerations. In doing so, Germany sends a strong political message to its citizens and the global community, acknowledging its economic strength, diplomatic influence, and historical legacy as factors that demand a more significant contribution to Europe’s security.

Aishwarya Sanjukta Roy Proma is a Research Associate at the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD). She is a research analyst in security studies. She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in International Relations from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.