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Most Germans would support more defense spending — poll

March 3, 2023

A new poll in Germany suggests six people in 10 would approve of investing more still in the armed forces, even if it meant making cuts elsewhere or borrowing. They were much less keen on giving up a bank holiday for it.

A group of new Bundeswehr recruits march in the rain, with an officer standing to their left, on the right side of the shot.
Germany is trying to boost its defense spending to reach 2% of GDP as per NATO targets, but making only so much progressImage: Thomas Imo/photothek/picture alliance

A new poll published on Friday suggests 62% of Germany would support investing more money in the Bundeswehr military, even beyond the special additional fund of €100 billion (just over $100 billion) announced by the government in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

Pollsters asked respondents if they would favor the additional spending — even if it came at the expense of government spending elsewhere or if additional state borrowing were necessary to fund it. 

As well as the 62% of participants in favor, 32% were against the idea and 6% were undecided in the Politbarometer poll conducted for public broadcaster ZDF. 

The poll also suggested that supporters of most German political parties were receptive to the idea when split up into subsets, with only supporters of the socialist Left Party (die Linke) strongly opposed to the proposal as a group. 

However, support for the idea suddenly nosedived when participants were asked if they would support a similar idea to Denmark's symbolic way of freeing up funds for defense. Only 26% of the just over 1,000 people polled said they would be willing to give up a public holiday so that increased tax revenues could be raised like Denmark

Didn't Germany raise its defense budget already? 

Yes, but it's complicated. 

Germany's government declared what it called a "Zeitenwende," which you might translate as "a changing of the times," in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It said that part of this would involve the country boosting its defense spending after years of pressure from NATO allies like the US. 

However, even with a rising defense spend in 2023, plus the extra money taken from the multi-year €100 billion fund to supplement the normal defense budget, Germany's government recently estimated it would fall short of NATO's target of spending 2% of GDP on defense. The total figure was around 1.5% of GDP in 2022 and should increase to 1.6% in 2023.

Two Leopard 2 tanks are seen in action during a visit of German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius at the Bundeswehr tank battalion 203 at the Field Marshal Rommel Barracks in Augustdorf, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023.
Germany's so-called 'Zeitenwende' not only involves exporting tanks to a warzone, it is also supposed to mean procuring more closer to homeImage: Martin Meissner/AP Photo/picture alliance

When first announcing the special fund last year, though, Chancellor Olaf Scholz had said that "from now on" Germany would be spending 2%. 

Difficulties accelerating recruitment and procurement at short notice, as well as other complications connected to the frequent weapons and ammunition deliveries to Ukraine, mean it has proven difficult for Germany to scale up its spending at the desired rate without wasting the money.

German army set for command shake-up

Majority support for weapons to Ukraine

Friday's poll was the second arguably surprising statistic about the public mood in a country that has largely eschewed militarism ever since its defeat in World War II. 

On Thursday, ARD published its monthy Deutschlandtrend analysis of the public mood. 

That survey found that a clear majority of Germans supported donating weapons to Ukraine. Of the respondents, 47% said the current government deliveries were appropriate, and another 16% said they did not go far enough. Meanwhile, 31% said they went too far. 

The figure saying it went too far was also down slightly on February's figure, which had stood at 35%.

msh/rc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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