Germany recently announced a plan to significantly expand its military, a development which would have triggered worldwide alarm not too long ago. Germany's old World War II ally Japan has also made changes to its constitution, permitting its military to engage in missions other than self-defense.
Why are these countries once again expanding their military forces? Jules Suzdaltsev puts the developments into historical context in today's DNews dispatch.
At the end of World War Two, Allied forces occupied both Germany and Japan for several years. During that period, both countries agrees to rewrite their respective constitutions to limit future military build-up. The idea was to prevent Germany and Japan from becoming the aggressors in another war.
Article Nine of the Japan's new constitution stated that the country would essentially become a pacifist nation and never again maintain "land, sea or air forces." However, when U.S. forces ended their occupation, it became immediately clear that Japan was utterly defenseless against regional aggression from neighbors like China and Russia.
In 1954, Japan established a small Self-Defense Force. Six years later, the country entered into an agreement by which the U.S. would maintain military bases in Japan and defend the island nation from attack.
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Meanwhile, over in Germany, the newly-written 1949 Constitution limited armed forces to domestic defense uses only. However, as the Cold War heated up, Germany became a front line again in a different kind of conflict. In 1955, West Germany was allowed to establish armed forces and join NATO. Gradually, the new German army expanded to 500,000 troops and provided the bulk of NATO's defensive forces in central Europe.
Germany reduced its forces at the end of the Cold War and imposed a cap of 185,000 troops. But now the country is ramping up its military once again, in response to terrorism and the growing migrant crisis in Europe. The newest policies, enacted in June, will add more than 7,000 troops and $150 billion to the defense budget.
In Japan, new laws passed in 2015 will allow the country to deploy troops overseas for the first time in 70 years and join allies in military operations. The new rules also bolster Japan's defense options when guarding against North Korean aggression or China's recent efforts at territorial expansion.
Why are Japan and Germany are arming themselves once again? The simple answer is also the most accurate: The world is a different place than it was 70 years ago.
-- Glenn McDonald
New York Times: In a Reversal, Germany's Military Growth Is Met With Western Relief
Telegraph: Japan allows army to join foreign forces in action
The Guardian: Germany slowly comes to terms with sending its armed forces abroad
BBC: Toothless tiger: Japan Self-Defense Forces