The CDU defense politician Roderich Kiesewetter has shown himself open to a significant increase in the 100 billion euro special pot for the Bundeswehr. “I would not rule out an increase in the special fund for the Bundeswehr,” he told the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. "It's completely clear that we need 300 billion instead of 100 billion so that the Bundeswehr becomes capable of war."
However, he demanded that misappropriation of the money to plug budget holes must be ruled out, and that a permanent defense budget of at least two percent of economic power must still be achieved in parallel. “This can only be achieved with re-prioritisation and clear structural reforms.”
The loan-financed special fund was decided after the Russian attack on Ukraine in order to eliminate equipment deficiencies in the Bundeswehr. There were repeated calls that the 100 billion euros were not enough. At the beginning of last year, the Commissioner for the Armed Forces, Eva Högl, said that she was hearing from experts and the troops that 300 billion euros would be needed to "significantly change something" in the Bundeswehr. "That doesn't seem to me to have come out of thin air."
Against the background of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, but also the uncertainty surrounding Donald Trump's presidential candidacy in the USA, there is currently a struggle over the future financing of the Bundeswehr. The federal government wants to implement NATO's goal of spending at least two percent of economic output on defense. For Germany, this means - roughly speaking - that more than 20 billion euros will likely have to be added to the defense budget of around 50 billion euros every year. This is probably possible this year because of the special fund. How the goal will be achieved in the medium term - after the special fund has been used up - remains to be seen.
SPD politician wants to decouple the debt brake
The SPD budget politician Andreas Schwarz proposed permanently exempting defense and civil defense spending from the debt brake in the Basic Law. “Excluding all defense costs from the debt brake would definitely be attractive,” Schwarz told the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. “There is a lot of catching up to do, and the threat from Russia will not go away.”
Schwarz also argued that Germany urgently needs to invest in civil defense and disaster control, "we need much more cyber defense, bunkers, mobile operating rooms, hospital supplies." The Union must also have an interest in this. “It is clear that we would need a two-thirds majority in order to be able to change the Basic Law accordingly. Such a solution would perhaps also be a bridge for the FDP to cross,” he said.
The traffic light coalition has kept open the possibility of suspending the debt brake again this year if Germany has to significantly increase spending to support Ukraine again.
Study: Germans for expanding defense capabilities
When it comes to expanding defense capabilities, the traffic light can rely on a solid majority of the population. According to a study by the management consultancy PwC, 68 percent of Germans support this project, but 63 percent also think that the “turning point” announced by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) in March 2022 has not yet reached the Bundeswehr. The majority consider the necessary investments to be necessary: 57 percent support the intention to invest two percent or more of the gross domestic product in defense. 31 percent see this critically.
For the study, PwC is based on a representative survey of 500 men and women between the ages of 18 and 65 on January 9th and 10th. The results, which follow on from an investigation from 2022, were available to the dpa in Berlin.
"In the summer 2022 survey, we were able to determine how much the population was shocked by the Russian attack on Ukraine and how clearly there was a change of heart on defense issues. The results from 2024 underline that people are still very worried and want more efforts to strengthen security," explained Wolfgang Zink, who is part of the study's author team at PwC in Germany.
Less than half perceive the Bundeswehr positively
A total of 58 percent consider the expansion of the troop presence on NATO's eastern flank, especially with the planned German combat brigade in Lithuania, to be rather necessary. When asked about their attitude towards the Bundeswehr, only 45.5 percent of those surveyed expressed themselves positively. In 2022, 54 percent still perceived the Bundeswehr positively.
When it comes to the question of whether Ukraine will be able to successfully assert itself against Russia with the support of the West, Germans are skeptical: 39 percent see opportunities. 48 percent are rather skeptical about Ukraine's long-term resilience.
Those surveyed are very skeptical about whether NATO and the West would continue their deterrence policy towards Russia as before if Donald Trump were re-elected as US President. Only 7 percent consider the USA to be reliable in this regard, while 15.4 percent have a fairly high level of trust. A clear majority of 59.1 percent expect that the USA would reduce its commitment to Ukraine under a Trump presidency.