October 2, 2023


BERLIN — After weeks of bickering, Germany’s governing coalition parties and the conservative opposition bloc agreed late Sunday night on a €100 billion special fund for military armament in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The giant special fund, which requires a constitutional change and therefore bipartisan agreement to reach a two-thirds majority in parliament, is a major pillar of the historic Zeitenwende shift in German foreign and security policy that Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced in late February.

The money is supposed to upgrade Germany’s chronically under-financed and under-equipped military, the Bundeswehr, and help Berlin to finally adhere to the goal of NATO countries spending at least 2 percent of their economic output on defense.

“The special fund is coming,” Scholz tweeted on Monday, adding that “with €100 billion, we ensure that the Bundeswehr can fulfill its defense mission better than ever before. A huge step for the security of Germany and Europe.”

According to a statement by the defense ministry, “the aim is to pass the draft legislation [for the special fund] before the parliamentary summer recess.”

However, the deal reached on Sunday night falls short of enshrining the 2 percent goal in the German constitution — something that the center-right opposition had pushed for — and instead says that this target should be reached “on a multi-year average,” meaning that Germany might spend more than 2 percent in some years due to major military investments, but less in others.

One major investment that Berlin plans to make with the €100 billion is the purchase of U.S. F-35 stealth fighter jets, which could also carry American nuclear bombs under a decades-old German commitment to drop such bombs on Russia in the event of an attack on the West.

Scholz’s government had proposed the €100 billion as a special fund to keep it separate from the regular budget, which would allow Germany to formally stick to its own strict fiscal targets. Finance Minister Christian Lindner, from the fiscally conservative liberal Free Democrats (FDP), emphasized on Monday that Germany’s so-called debt brake, the constitutionally enshrined fiscal restraint, “will remain in place for all other projects.”

The main opposition bloc, consisting of the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and its smaller Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), whom the government needs on side to get two-thirds majority support in parliament, also signaled happiness with the breakthrough.

“The democratic center sticks together! Consensus is possible,” said the CDU’s Johann Wadephul, thanking particularly Lindner, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock of the Greens, and Defense Minister Christina Lambrecht of the Social Democrats (SPD), Scholz’s party.

While CDU and CSU did not manage to push through their goal of enshrining an annual 2 percent defense spending commitment in the constitution, they won a crucial concession — all of the €100 billion can only be used specifically for the Bundeswehr.

Baerbock and the Greens had sought in vain to soften such wording to allow some of the money to also be used for foreign and development projects or cyber defense.


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