Amid Growing Threats, Germany Plans to Expand Troop Numbers to Nearly 200,000 is slowly shedding its reluctance to wield military power, announcing Wednesday it would boost the size of its armed forces to nearly 200,000 over the next seven years. While the move comes days after top U.S. officials called on Europe to step up on defense, former officials and experts say the latest announcement was years in the making.

“The Bundeswehr has rarely been as necessary as it is now,” German Defense Minister Ursula Von Der Leyen said in a statement on the announcement. “Whether it is the fight against ISIL terrorism, the stabilization of Mali, continuing support of Afghanistan, operations against migrant smugglers in the Mediterranean or with our increased NATO presence in the Baltics.”

The new decision is splashy, but not substantive. It will increase the military’s roster of professional soldiers from the current level of 178,000 to 198,000 by 2025. Last May, Germany already announced it would increase its troop size to 193,000 by 2023. The latest announcement adds only 5,000 troops to that number over a longer timespan….

A 2015 poll found 56 percent of Germans favored expanding Germany’s military….

Germany spends 1.2 percent of its GDP on defense and would need to spend an additional $66 billion to reach the 2 percent threshold. The Pentagon declined to comment on Germany’s latest announcement….

But experts say credit for Germany’s troop increase goes more to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Islamic State than Donald Trump. Still, a nervous U.S. ally may not rush to correct Trump if he takes credit.

“While it is politically smart for the Germans to give Trump credit for this increase, the truth is that this is only an incremental improvement” over last year’s announcement, said NATO expert Jorge Benitez with the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. Merkel first announced a heavy defense spending boost in October 2016, before Trump was elected….

That makes the boost in Germany’s troop size a welcome, albeit modest, move. “Germany is doing the right thing, but in small doses,” Benitez said.

Related Experts: Jorge Benitez

Image: German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, June 18, 2015 (photo: Dana Kazda/Bundeswehr)