New German defense minister backs higher military spending

International News

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, rear right, and the members of the cabinet applaude to the new German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, front center, during a swearing-in ceremony at the German Federal Parliament in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

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BERLIN (AP) — Military spending in Germany must keep rising, the country’s new defense minister said Wednesday, underlining her commitment to long-term targets. She told critics that the country’s own security needs require more funds and the move isn’t simply a response to foreign pressure.

NATO members in 2014 agreed to “aim to move toward” increasing defense spending to 2% of their gross domestic product by 2024, though Germany has already said it doesn’t expect to meet that goal. The U.S. has criticized Berlin’s spending.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who also leads Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right party, told lawmakers after being sworn in as defense minister that she is committed to aiming for the 2% target and Germany must reach 1.5% by 2024. She said spending needs to remain on “a reliable constantly growing path.”

Kramp-Karrenbauer said Germany is and will remain “a reliable ally,” but the 1.5% aim reflects “our minimum needs.”

“To say it very clearly: This is not about wishes from abroad, this is not about rearmament,” she said. “It is about equipment and personnel.”

Germany’s military spending is expected to hit 1.35% of GDP this year, compared with 1.23% in 2018. However, a budget proposal earlier this year suggested that it would drop back again by 2023, angering the U.S.

The junior partners in Merkel’s fractious coalition, the Social Democrats, question the 2% spending target.

The leader of the party’s parliamentary group, Rolf Muetzenich, said the German parliament controls the country’s budget and that “no alliance and no international organization can presume that right for itself.”

Muetzenich said Kramp-Karrenbauer appeared to think resolving security issues was simply “a question of money.” He said would advise her to address weaknesses in her new ministry before asking for more spending and referring to “a supposed 2% target.”

Kramp-Karrenbauer succeeds Ursula von der Leyen, who was elected last week as the next president of the European Union’s executive Commission.

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