"The West is not in decline, at least not in its entirety. Rather, the financial crisis has created a two-speed West. Four large countries -- Germany, South Korea, Turkey, and the United States -- are actually increasing their international influence." write Bruce Jones and Thomas Wright in Foreign Policy:
Germany stands apart as a rising power amidst a weakened Europe. Its unemployment rate is at a post-Cold War low and its timely market reforms have allowed it to export its way out of the recession. The euro crisis is Germany's greatest challenge but, ironically, it has also made Germany the continent's preeminent diplomatic and geoeconomic power: For better or worse, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has won argument after argument about the future direction of the EU, often despite deep reservations from other member states. Francois Hollande's election in France will complicate but not erode Merkel's position. And even if she loses power next year -- an unlikely prospect despite her recent setbacks in regional elections -- a different German leader will continue to profit from Germany's economic strength within Europe.
A new Atlantic Council report states that "Germany must match its economic power with the strategic ambition and military capability to contribute more strongly to Alliance operations worldwide."
The argument focuses on solidarity rather than making a case why it should be in Germany's interest to spend more on defense and contribute more to missions like Libya and Afghanistan, especially at a time when the euro crisis and many domestic challenges (like switching from nuclear to renewable energy) keep Berlin more than busy and our economic situation in the longterm is not that rosy either.
In Anchoring the Alliance, Nick Burns declares that, "A weak Germany that lacks a capacity to act globally will inevitably weaken NATO. Europe cannot remain a major force within the NATO Alliance if a country of Germany's size, geography, and prosperity makes the kind of deep reductions in defense spending announced by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government in 2011."
I agree with James Joyner, managing editor of the Atlantic Council:
The fact of the matter is that the Germans don't see a strong military threat to their national security while at the same time feel very threatened by the economic calamity of the Eurozone. While perhaps short-sighted, it's an entirely reasonable short-term view.
Additionally, for all the piling on against Germany that's come from NATO circles of late, it's worth noting that at least Germany's strategic ambitions and budget are aligned. France and the UK, in particular, have been eager to turn NATO into a global response force; yet they're cutting their own defense budgets to the point of impotency. To be sure, they will still meet the two percent target even in austerity. But they have seriously hollowed out their capabilities, to the point where they couldn't even pull of the Libya operation without heavy reliance on American "unique assets" such as the ability to keep fuel and bullets in stock. Germany, by contrast, has coupled a modest military capability with modest goals.
Indeed, the report's warning that "Germany will handicap Europe's ability to play a leading global security role" may well be met with a shrug in Berlin.
Yes! Moreover, I believe the British and French defense spending is not much higher than the German one (even seen as a percentage of GDP), if you exclude the huge spending on their nuclear weapons, which is more vanity than a useful military deterrent.