• Refugee crisis, terrorism put pressure on Merkel government
  • Troop-strength ceiling to be lifted to allow defense boost

Germany plans to expand its military for the first time since the end of the Cold War as the country claims a more ambitious role in global affairs and responds to new threats with cyber-defense and aerial surveillance technology.

The Defense Ministry will scrap the military’s upper limit of 185,000 military personnel, adding 14,400 soldiers as well as 4,400 civilian employees over the next seven years, a senior defense official told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday.

“Rarely has the German military faced higher demands than in the last few months,” Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said. “We need to get away from a shrinking trend and toward a level of breathing space when it comes to personnel.”

Terrorism in European capitals and a refugee crisis spurred by conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East are creating pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to lessen post-World War II military restraint and take a more active role in stemming turmoil.

The focus of the expansion will be in cyber-defense, navy special forces and aerial surveillance technology, according to the official, who asked not to be identified discussing details of the plan. The ramping-up will involve a 3 percent boost in personnel costs, an increase of 90 million euros ($102 million) in the first year.

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