Pistorius angry about defense budget – Kühnert advises breathing space


Lerato Khumalo

No sooner has an agreement been reached in the budget dispute than the debate about improvements flares up. The Minister of Defense vents his displeasure. The SPD General Secretary, on the other hand, dreams of – calm.

After the traffic light coalition leaders agreed on a draft budget, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius sharply criticized the small increases for the Bundeswehr. “Yes, I got significantly less than I registered for. That is annoying for me because I cannot then initiate certain things as quickly as the changing times and threat situation require,” said Pistorius, who attended the Arctic Defender 2024 exercise in Alaska and then wanted to travel on to the NATO summit in Washington. Inspector General Carsten Breuer is also now expecting guarantees for a significant increase in the coming years. SPD General Secretary Kevin Kühnert, meanwhile, is hoping for an end to the budget debate, at least temporarily.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) and Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) settled the budget dispute that had been simmering for months on Friday night and agreed on key points for the federal budget for 2025. The debt brake will be adhered to, and no budgetary emergency has been identified, for example due to spending on military and humanitarian support for Ukraine. This was important to the FDP and its Finance Minister Christian Lindner.

The defense budget, currently around 52 billion euros, is only to grow by around 1.2 billion euros. Pistorius had called for significantly more and an exemption for these expenses from the debt brake. There has been clear criticism of this, including from the traffic light coalition. Pistorius said of the draft budget: “We will see what happens in the coming weeks and months. I have to prepare for it and make the best of it.”

“In view of the threat situation, we need to make it more permanent,” said Inspector General Breuer to the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. The 100 billion special fund will be fully contractually tied up by the end of the year. With the purchase of new weapons systems, operating costs also increase. “What use is new equipment if the soldiers can’t operate it?” He warns that Russia could also turn against NATO states around 2029, which is why deterrence is so important. “The Russian armed forces are planning to increase their numbers to 1.5 million soldiers, which is more soldiers than in the entire EU.”

The head of the Munich Security Conference, Christoph Heusgen, told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND): “We need a discussion about how much security is worth to us and what we are willing to forego if we anchor the two percent in the budget in the long term.” This refers to NATO’s requirement for its member states to spend at least two percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

Kühnert, on the other hand, is hoping for a calm debate for the time being. “Concrete discussions about corrections to the budget only make sense once the cabinet’s draft budget has been approved. That will be the case on July 17,” Kühnert told the Düsseldorf “Rheinische Post”. “At least until then, Berlin’s political establishment should allow itself and the people of the country a little summer break.”

Kühnert describes the compromise reached by the traffic light coalition leaders as a “good basis” for further budget discussions. “Of course, the German Bundestag will make smaller and larger changes to the budget in the autumn, that is quite normal,” he told the “Rheinische Post”. The Bundestag will then deal with the budget for the first time in September. Decisions are usually made there in November/December.

Greens expect difficult negotiations in the Bundestag

The Greens have already made it clear that they expect difficult negotiations in the Bundestag, in several areas. Leading finance and budget politicians have called for higher investments. “The railways must be better financed,” said Green budget expert Sven-Christian Kindler to the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. The government must guarantee the renovation of the most important routes. Green parliamentary group vice-chairman Andreas Audretsch told the newspaper: “Germany cannot afford to cut costs to the point of ruin.” All avenues for more investment must now be exploited to the full, whether in the individual budgets, at the railways or via the KfW.