German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has refused to link spending on social measures and defense efforts. In doing so, she contradicts herself.
It was exactly one month ago. On June 14, the German government presented its National Security Strategy. It says: “We want to define security policy comprehensively and focus it on the individual. Where the security of each individual grows, and democratic rights and freedoms are guaranteed, the stability of society and the state also grows.”
So German security has a clear prioritization. First comes social security, then infrastructure security, and then the projection of security outward. It reads that way in the federal budget, too.
For the 2024 federal budget, Germany has earmarked more than 171 billion for the “Labor and Social Affairs” department. Just under 52 billion euros are budgeted for Germany’s defense.
On Friday, July 14, this already sounds somewhat different. The Second German Television Channel reports, “Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) has warned against playing off aid to Ukraine and the suffering in the country against social benefits in Germany. “That is of no use to anyone here in Germany who has little money. And it would be a mockery for the people in Ukraine,” the Green Party politician said in a joint interview with former world boxing champion Vladimir Klitschko for “Bild,” “Welt” and “Politico” on Friday evening.”
Actually, the argument should be reversed. The German foreign minister should have honestly admitted that every euro can only be spent once. Of course, there must be a weighing of what the money is available for. Social welfare or weapons aid? A conflict of goals.
The National Security Strategy also says something about this: “In defending our values and asserting our interests, we must face conflicting goals that require political considerations and decisions. The benchmark for the federal government is to address these openly and discuss them transparently.”
Military spending versus social spending? Quite a common way to make a country’s political priorities clear. Even the German Federal Agency for Civic Education does it. Here’s a 2017 analysis, based on SIPRI’s database. The tool can be found here. While Russia, for example, has traditionally spent more than 10 percent of its total government expenditure on the military, Germany has always spent around 2 percent. This is government spending, not GDP.