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The future of Germany’s military was at stake during the nation’s September election. Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged to increase defense spending, which will help promote German leadership in an uncertain EU and strengthen its position in NATO. Though Merkel held onto her chancellorship for a fourth term, her opposition was adamantly against her plan.

Germany’s military is relatively small compared to neighboring nations. Their budget allocates a mere 1.2 percent of their annual GDP for defense compared to the United States’ 3.6 percent or Poland’s two percent. Additionally, the U.S. has 1.2 million more enlisted soldiers in their military than Germany does.

In a 2014 NATO summit in Wales, members promised to eventually increase their defense spending to two percent of their GDP by 2024. Angela Merkel and her party, the conservative Christian Democrat Union (CDU), have committed to this two percent goal and plan on devoting 65.8 billion dollars on defense within the next decade.

While a majority of German citizens support an increase in military spending, many remain hesitant. Martin Schulz, the chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Merkel’s challenger in the last election, has voiced his concerns with an expanding military and what that would mean for Germany’s standing in the West.

Schulz believes that dramatically increasing Germany’s military will elicit criticism from other powers. He proposes that money soon to be budgeted for defense should instead be applied to humanitarian aid and domestic education. He believes also that Merkel defers too much to President Trump and that Germany should be more independent of American influence. The SPD is not alone in its opposition toward further defense spending; the German Green Party also sees this as an unnecessary military escalation. They bring up a valid point: if Merkel expands the military, she must make it clear that the decision is fully her own.

Because Germany takes a larger role in the EU in combating the current crises of unemployment, debt, and refugees, most other European nations see a larger German military as a necessary development. The EU will be more structurally sound if Germany contributes more to European leadership, especially in the lead-up to Brexit. Strengthening the German military would confirm Germany’s status as a global leader.

Not only has Merkel felt regional pressure from Europe, but also Trump has continually threatened NATO members with the prospect of a U.S. withdrawal if they fail to increase military spending. As of 2016, the U.S. contributed about 72 percent of NATO’s total defense spending. While attacks from Trump should be taken with a grain of salt, other prominent American leaders have similarly criticised Germany, including Senator Bernie Sanders.

Merkel must remain on solid ground with Trump to preserve Germany’s status in NATO and maintain trade relations with the U.S., which consumes nine percent of Germany’s total exports.

Increasing military spending not only satisfies other nations and increases Germany’s national security, but it also puts Germany on track to become a global leader. Angela Merkel will soon begin the transition of making Germany a more global and engaged nation. The EU needs guidance, and Germany is the most appropriate nation to steer the ship.