With the help of billions of German and French armaments projects, Europe can this year become a global armament centre. This is what the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS, London) writes in its current armaments report. According to IISS data, the expenditure of European countries excluding Russia on the military this year amounts to 17.5 percent of all military expenditure worldwide; this is less than the share of the United States (40.3 percent), but much more than the share of China (10.6 percent) or even Russia (3.3 percent). Together with Canada and important allies such as Australia, Japan and South Korea, the West accounts for just over two-thirds of global military spending.
The global arms boom
Global military spending increased again last year, reaching a record $ 1.83 trillion. This is clear from the IISS Arms Report presented in February. Accordingly, global arms spending in 2020 exceeded the previous year’s figure by 3.9 percent, increasing its share of global economic output to 2.08 percent.
The absolute strongest increase was recorded by the United States, whose official military spending increased by 6.3 percent to $ 738 billion. However, their total military spending, including that hidden in other budget items, is significantly higher, reaching $ 935.8 billion in 2020, according to experts.
With 5.2 percent of China’s military budget, which reached US $ 193.3 billion and remains the second largest in the world, the increase was smaller than in the previous year. The state with the third largest military budget is India, which has increased its arms budget by a good 40 percent since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014 to 64.1 billion US dollars.
The region with the largest share of arms in economic output (5.2 percent) is still North Africa and the Middle East, where several of the most important customers of German arms manufacturers are located.
The global upgrade center
Germany is making a significant contribution to the global arms boom. For example, the German Armed Forces budget, which already increased by 12.2 percent from 2018 to 2019, rose again by 5.6 percent from 2019 to 2020. Despite the corona crisis, it foresees further growth of 2.8 percent to 46.93 billion euros for the current year. The actual military expenditure – as in the case of the USA – is considerably higher because individual items have been moved into the budgets of other ministries. This is confirmed by the fact that the federal government reported relevant expenditure of 53.03 billion euros to NATO for the current year, 3.2 percent more than in 2020.
According to official data, the Federal Republic of Germany was also the country with the seventh largest arms expenditure in the world in 2020. The share of European countries excluding Russia in global arms spending is estimated by the IISS at 17.5 percent – considerably more than the share of China (10.6 percent) and Russia (3.3 percent). The IISS points out that both Germany and France have announced huge arms projects for the coming years. If they are realised, then perhaps “Europe will become the region with the greatest growth in global defence spending”, as the US is currently barely able to catch up after the Trump-era arms increases, writes the London-based think-tank.
A new “Fleet building program”
In fact, the Bundeswehr budget foresees an increase of 9 percent in arms investment expenditure to 10.3 billion euros in 2021. In addition to the development of a next-generation fighter jet and tank, the Armed Forces multi-billion-dollar major projects include the purchase of new eurofighters and numerous transport vehicles, as well as the procurement of the euro drone.
Plans include the development and procurement of numerous warships, in particular the frigate 126 and the German-Norwegian submarine U212 Common Design. In military circles it is said that a new “fleet building program” will become “concrete”. Accordingly, the Navy also has in its sights the acquisition of fleet service boats of class 424, of fuel tankers of class 707 and of six support vessels as a replacement for the tenders of class 404. Last but not least, nine operational boats including equipment will be purchased for the special forces of the Navy – with the option to purchase up to twelve more boats.
With the armaments projects, the Bundeswehr is responding to the strategic reorientation from foreign interventions around the world to major power conflicts, as the Federal Government has implemented since 2014. Russia and, to a growing extent, China are considered possible opponents.
Double-Digit Export Increases
In addition to the armament of the Bundeswehr, German arms exports also contribute to the militarization of the West and its global allies. Just under a year ago, the Stockholm Research Institute SIPRI, in an analysis of global arms exports, came to the conclusion that Germany was the fourth largest arms exporter in the world in the five-year period from 2015 to 2019. The calculation of five-year periods can be used in the analysis of arms exports because of the large fluctuations that can arise from individual, particularly expensive arms sales. German gunsmiths were also able to increase their exports by 17 percent compared to the five– year period from 2010 to 2014-significantly more than the global increase of 5.5 percent. 30 Percent of German arms exports went to “Asia and Oceania” – states that are considered regional allies in the West’s power struggle against China. 24 Percent were delivered to the crisis region North Africa/Middle East.
From 2015 to 2019, the EU accounted for around 26 percent of all arms exports worldwide – less than the US (36 percent), but more than Russia (21 percent), which lost market share to the West, especially in India. From 2015 to 2019, the Transatlantic West thus accounted for around two – thirds of all arms exports-with a significantly increasing trend.
The green “defense planning law”
It is unclear whether the corona crisis will allow the planned further rapid increase in military budgets without further ado. As the IISS states, the European states are indeed anxious to maintain the planned increase in their arms spending. In the event, however, that particularly expensive arms projects come under legitimation pressure due to the crisis-related economic collapse, the defence policy spokesman of the parliamentary group of Alliance 90/The Greens, Tobias Lindner, recently submitted proposals. According to this, the German Bundestag is to pass a “defence Planning Law” every ten years, in which it “determines the 10 to 15 most important procurement projects of the Bundeswehr”. Their financing, “it continues,” thus becomes a legal task, which is no longer readily available. By setting a “budget ceiling” for each project, the arms industry would also be given precise guidelines that made constant price increases difficult: an incentive to greater efficiency in German arms production, even in times of tight budgets.