A followup question from this answer.

Germany is currently bound by the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany from 1990. It, among other things, prevents Germany from having over 370,000 military personal. From my cursory look at the treaty I do not see any way for Germany to renegotiate or leave this treaty.

If Germany wanted legally to increase or remove this limit, how would they go about doing this?

Japan, for example, has similar restrictions, but those are written into their constitution. Japan has the ability to amend their constitution to expand their military capabilities. Germany doesn't seem to have this option.

How would Germany go about having over 370,000 military personnel?

  • 7
    Not exactly an answer to the quesiton but: Keep in mind that the number 370k was negotiated during the cold war time when large standing armies were the norm and that in todays terms that number is actually quite large and there is little reason to go beyond it. In todays terms the 370k would allow Germany "only" to have the largest army in europe (As both uk and france have less soldiers, without any treaty restricting them). And my guess is that it will become less and less of a real restriciton as time goes on. (Think about the year 3000 and 370.000 giant killer robots for a hyperbole) Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 16:08

3 Answers 3


First of all, it is quite unlikely that Germany would want to do that. They just intentionally downsized their military to 180,000 soldiers in the past decades when they first reduced and then completely suspended conscription. And now that the Bundeswehr was reformed into a pure volunteer army, it has trouble getting onto its current nominal manpower, despite aggressive recruitment campaigns. In a country like Germany, with low unemployment, high education standards, low patriotism and a generally pacifist mentality among the population, the military is just not an attractive employer.

But if Germany would theoretically want to increase its army, they would have to renegotiate the two-plus-four agreement with the signatories. But two of the original signatories, the GDR and the Soviet Union, don't exist anymore. The GDR was completely integrated into the FRG, so modern Germany could represent both signatories. The successor of the Soviet Union is the Russian Federation. So that leaves us with these signatories:

  • Germany
  • France
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Russia

The first four are all NATO partners, close allies and would not really have a geopolitical interest in keeping the German army small. But Russia could have an interest in keeping European military forces weak.

If Russia refuses to agree to an amendment to the two-plus-four agreement, then there is still the option of just ignoring that agreement and doing it anyway. International politics is anarchy. Agreements are just as powerful as those who want to enforce them. Russia could interpret that as an act of aggression. They could interpret the situation as saying that the two-plus-four agreement is broken, therefore the German reunification is void, World War II is now technically on again and thus they now have a claim on East Germany. They could decide that it justifies armed intervention into western Europe, but if Russia would go so far as to start a full-blown war with the NATO over this is pure speculation.

  • Could Russia have legal recourse? (e.g. sue for treaty violation?)
    – user4012
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 15:29
  • 7
    @user4012 None I could think of. As I wrote, international politics is anarchy. They might try something in the UN security council, but three of the countries above have veto powers there, so that would be rather pointless.
    – Philipp
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 15:34
  • There's the non-binding GA resolution, but that's kinda useless
    – user4012
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 15:44
  • 1
    (+1) Good answer. At the time (Feb. 2017) it wasn't fully clear the developments that would happen just a few months later. Being almost certain the withdraw of the UK (which opposes integrated EU defense) the EU advanced with a joint defense budget. Given the justification one can already predict the strong possibility of a future "EU army". The project has the full back of both Germany and France (the largest EU army after the UK). By December 2017, 25 EU members had committed to it. (EU Observer)
    – armatita
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 12:59

Napoleon imposed a similar restriction on Prussia. They got round it by respecting the size limit at any one time, but not always having the same 42,000 men, i.e. rotating them in and out.

  • 6
    This is a good start to an answer, but it (1) needs citations, and (2) needs a justification as to why anyone would let that fly in Germany's case (I really don't think they would). Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 14:13

How would Germany go about having over 370,000 military personnel?

The simplest: unsign the treaty. tear it apart and move on.

they would also re-negotiate it: messy particularly if the increase isn't universally welcome.

they can also litigate it: internal laws generally favor countries who signed unfair treaties under duress. Having bombers dumping explosives on your soil isn't quite conducive to a fair negotiation.

they could also hide it: germany maintained its defense capabilities and expertise before ww2 by engaging in construction and research in defense outside of germany.

all sorts of ways to get around any legal contract.

  • 11
    "Having bombers dumping explosives on your soil isn't quite conducive to a fair negotiation." <- You do know that the 4+2 treaty was negotiated and signed in 1990. The only bombers flying over Germany during this time were american bombers on their way to iraq ;-) Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 16:02
  • 3
    I also specifically mentioned that the option had to be legal. While this option is totally possible and happens all the time, it is not technically legal to just tear up a treaty. -1. Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 16:30

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