It has been said that when German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer signed the reconstitution of the military in 1955, he proclaimed: “It is crazy, gentlemen, that I have to create a German army, it is just crazy”.
Sixty years have passed, but that sentiment still seems very strong in Germany. A few days ago Sigmar Gabriel, the German foreign minister, said: “We have to be a bit careful here that we don’t over-interpret the 2 percent target.” Gabriel then became clearer: “Maintain perspective, stay focused on the target, but avoid being consumed by the bliss of a new rearmament spiral!”
A few days earlier, Germany had made an announcement: to raise the number of soldiers from 170,000 to 198,000 by 2024 — a modest “rearmament”.
It is a direct consequence of the Trump Administration’s important pressure on European allies, urging them to invest more in defense and security. European armies have become, to quote The Economist, “Potemkin Euro-armies“. Germany’s views are crucial to understanding Europe’s attitude about security and defense. Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy and Europe’s financial giant, is a military dwarf, proud of being weak and disarmed.
Take the countries which suffered most of terror attacks in the last two years. Belgium? It spends 0.85% of its gross domestic product on defense. France? 1.78%. Germany? 1.19%. Spain, which in 2004 experienced the most severe attack in Europe’s recent history? 0.94%.
Europe is enjoying a big siesta. It is disarmed not only militarly but also mentally. Seventy-five percent of Belgium’s military spending goes to pay army pensions. As NATO’s Secretary General Lord Robertson put it, “The problem in Europe is that there are far too many people in uniform, and too few of them able to go into action.”
Another NATO official, Joseph Ralston, the former supreme commander for Europe, defined European armies as “fat and redundant”.
These countries have all embraced the moral vanity of pacifism.
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