Why does Britain want Germany to do more on defence?
by our secret columnist in Brussels
Schadenfreude wonders what might be behind the United Kingdom's call for Germany to increase its contribution to European defence and security: surely not simply a piece of friendly advice?
Germany is the ninth largest defence spender, at $47bn per annum. Britain and France spend $62 billion but the British are cutting back.
The United Kingdom's prime minister and his defence secretary want Germany to increase its defence spending. We had better hear that again: the prime minister of the United Kingdom and his defence secretary want Germany to increase its defence spending. What can this be about?
1. The defence of the west against a new threat from the east? What is the east suspected of? Admittedly, Russia has increased its defence spending, there have been ostentatious troop manoeuvres, and Moscow is deeply concerned at the anti-missile system that would have a base in Germany. But in its efficiency drive Britain is withdrawing troops from Germany, which does not sound like a response to increased threat from that direction.
2. Is it a cunning plan to increase British exports of military equipment? Unlikely. German industry is capable of meeting national needs, except for the expensive ABC weapons – atomic, biological and chemical – which were forbidden in the pact which ended the Allied occupation. It would be a very long shot to think that we could compete on Germany's home ground.
3. Is it to divert German manufacturing away from the products that Germany successfully exports to the uncompetitive parts of the eurozone? Is Britain so Machiavellian? And what if German defence goods sell well?
4. Is it to increase domestic spending in Germany, based on business and consumer demand and a bit more inflation, making Germany less of an economic giant? It is at least as likely that Germany could build up a competitive arms trade, with additional profit.
5. Is it to make good in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation the reductions in Britain's armed services that are already in train, with more announced? Would the proposed increase be on manpower rather than on hardware? But more troops need more equipment.
6. Is it so that German armed forces can be deployed on United Nations/NATO missions in trouble spots? Would the Bundeswehr have been welcomed in former Yugoslavia? There is a small German contingent in the NATO force in Afghanistan but will the German in the street be ready to see many more of the boys put in harm's way?
7. Or is it just one of those pieces of advice that David Cameron freely distributes, to the irritation of the recipients?
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