Should the defense budget be increased after the war in Ukraine? That’s what Prime Minister Alexander de Croo and Chief of Defense Admiral Michael Hoffmann want. Environmentalists continue to oppose it.
Yes, tension is building within Vivaldi about this. At the end of June, the Prime Minister would like to be able to go to Madrid, during the NATO summit, to announce that Belgium will finally honor the goal set by NATO of spending 2% of GDP on defence. To give you an idea, we’re currently at just over 1%, or €4.2 billion annually.
The government before the war in Ukraine had already decided to increase it because we were, in fact, behind our allies. It has been a break with the past since 1989, the defense budget has not stopped declining. With every budget, the army was wiped out.
The war in Ukraine reinforced this dynamic. The government has promised to increase this budget to 1.5% of GDP, approximately 6.8 billion euros by 2030. Reaching 2% means adding nearly 2.5 billion euros, to reach nearly 9 billion euros. Simply put, it nearly doubles the defense budget in the long run.
Jean-Marc Nollet, Mr. “No”
Environmentalists oppose this. Jean-Marc Nollet confirmed this loud and clear in an interview. He makes it clear that he has other priorities, for purchasing power, for the energy transition. Indeed, this increase in credit reduces the means to mobilize for climate policies. Mais surtout, elle va à l’encontre d’une partie de l’électorat historique des verts issus des mouvements pacifistes des années 80 (au moment de la crise des euromissiles, ces missiles nucléaires que l’Otan installait en Europe pour contrer l’ soviet union).
Participation in the re-militarization of the country would be a new break with the greens with their roots. If you think that Ecolo really had to go against the historic electorate trend that opponents of civilian nuclear power have shaped in the file of extending nuclear reactors, that’s a lot.
The ‘realism’ of the German Green Party
However, mass rearmament is what Germany’s Green Party decided on. The word historical has never been overused. After weeks of talks, the ruling coalition in Berlin (Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals) teamed up with the opposition, former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives to boost the €100 billion military budget to reach that famous 2% of GDP.
To achieve this, Germany had to change its constitution as its famous golden rule was codified in the budget, which limits indebtedness. Neither the threat of seeing the eurozone disintegrate, nor the climate emergency, nor Covid have managed to deviate Germany from this golden rule. The war has come there: Germany is cheating on its own indebtedness doctrine. German environmentalists, together with Foreign Minister Annalena Barbock, are part of that decision.
The “naivety” of the Belgian greens
The position of Belgian environmentalists was soon considered naive by some. But this blame cannot be solely for the greens. From a certain point of view Is this increase in credit to 2% also naive. If we note in absolute terms that the Europeans in 2020 spent $232 billion on their defense in 2020.
Russia spent $66 billion. 4 times less. It is clear that the question of spending cannot be reduced to a conflict between “naive” versus “realistic.” Because the “realistic” situation includes an element of naivety.
How can a “realist” explain that the main issue is overspending when Europe spends four times as much as Russia but considers its defense ineffective? How can a “realist” see it appropriate to spend more when our defense industry is weak and so dependent on Americans? Spending more and not confronting these questions is a disconcerting naivety like the one that led to the disinvestment of the country’s armed forces.