National Security

Germany Pushes to End 2 Percent GDP Commitment to NATO

German defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer / Getty Images

Germany's defense minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, called for a new measurement standard for the country's contributions to NATO, soon after the Pentagon authorized the transfer of thousands of troops out of Germany, Defense News reported Friday.

Berlin is pushing for its NATO contribution standards to be based on a percentage of the alliance's needs rather than Germany's GDP. Germany is currently committed to contribute 2 percent of its GDP to NATO, a benchmark the country consistently falls short of. The proposed change would make Germany responsible for footing 10 percent of NATO's defense needs.

A defense ministry spokesman told Defense News that the new standard would more accurately depict the full scope of Germany’s "cash, capabilities, and commitments." The change in thinking is partly fueled by the economic downturn brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, which has sunk GDP for most countries. Kramp-Karrenbauer argues this renders a GDP-based metric of defense spending an inaccurate depiction of alliance contributions in real terms.

"It's true that the 2 percent mark does not capture with any precision a country's specific contributions to the alliance," American Enterprise Institute defense expert Gary J. Schmitt told the Washington Free Beacon. "But it does capture the defense burden a country is willing to accept more broadly."

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Germany missed the mark on its NATO contributions. Despite its status as the largest economy in Europe, Germany has failed to hit the 2 percent benchmark in recent years—which has prompted Washington to rethink its strategic commitments to the country.

Supporters of keeping the mark at 2 percent of GDP argue that the hard-and-fast figure is impartial, "immune to bartering and interpretation," according to Defense News.

"The German minister's effort to change the metric would be given a more favorable hearing if the Bundeswehr was not in the poor shape it currently is in," Schmitt said. "Changing the metric is not going to fix the poor readiness rates or the lack of critical capabilities. But spending 2 percent just might."