NATOSource Director and Brent Scowcroft Center Senior Fellow Jorge Benitez
on why Germany is in a position to dictate NATO's effectiveness:
“The French are overstretched contributing to security missions in Mali and CAR,” observes Jorge Benitez, senior fellow for trans-Atlantic security at the Atlantic Council think tank, referring to the Central African Republic. “The Brits are overstretched.”
So how much are the Germans willing to flex?
Here’s one big indicator: Despite talk of increasing the defense budget in the wake of Russia’s takeover of Crimea, Berlin ultimately cut its military spending for the coming year by €800 million (about $1 billion) — from €33.3 billion to €32.4 billion. The government argued it had to close the budget gap, but Benitez says it’s a bad sign that “they’re cutting the defense budget at a time when their economy is doing so much better than the other allies.”
Among other things, the Germans are now contributing to stepped up air policing flights over the Baltics. Benitez says Merkel’s remarks in Riga also indicate Germany is likely to support plans for a new “alliance assurance force,” one of the top initiatives expected from next week’s summit. According to Defense News, the “force would be maintained at a high state of readiness” across the continent “and intended for rapid deployment before a conflict erupts.”
“There is one other big event that may trigger” Germany to get more aggressive, says Benitez, “and that is if there is an overt Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine.”