After a report found that German armed forces is in ‘dramatically bad’ shape, the German defence minister announced a major rearmament programme.
Military equipment shortages
Many primary weapons systems in the Bundeswehr (the unified armed forces of Germany) are not available for training exercises or deployment, according to a report published at the end of february by the parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces, Hans-Peter Bartels.
« The army’s readiness to deploy has not improved in recent years, but instead has got even worse, » Mr Bartels said. « At the end of the year six out of six submarines were not in use. At times, not one of the 14 Airbus A-400M could fly, » he added.
The Defense Ministry said a higher number of training missions and deployments since Russia’s intervention in eastern Ukraine in 2014 had caused existing equipment to wear down quicker than it had previously.
The report found however that the readiness for most weapon types had improved. Around 550 more weapons were available in 2017 for deployment compared to 2014. But more time and money were needed to recover from decades of spending cuts.
« We will need significantly more funds in coming years so the Bundeswehr can accomplish the missions and assignments that parliament gives it, » Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said.
Germany spent €37bn in 2017 on defence – about 1.2% of GDP, but Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged to meet the 2% spending target by 2024.
German defence minister confirms grand coalition’s rearmament plans
German Defence Minister Von der Leyen said in her opening speech at the Munich security conference that Germany was willing to take on more international responsibility. Then, she made it clear in a recent interview: a new instalment of the grand coalition will launch a major rearmament programme and press ahead with the return of German militarism to the world stage.
The conservative parties and Social Democrats have already “initiated important reforms for the soldiers over recent years,” Von der Leyen stated. After the army had “consistently shrunk over the past quarter century,” it can now “grow once again.” However, it is not possible to “repair everything in a few years that has been dismantled and cut over 25 years” she declared.
Merkel’s conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) agreed to set aside €10 billion over the next four years for the Bundeswehr in a coalition deal, which is still pending approval. The pact also accords the military « priority » along with international development if more money becomes available in the federal budget in the future.
Von der Leyen has said further increases will be needed to rebuild the German military after years of spending cuts.
Germany to expand global military missions
The German government also wants to extend six military missions, including in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Mali.
The German defence minister Von der Leyen particularly calls for an expansion of the Bundeswehr’s mission in Afghanistan, where Germany has contributed to NATO missions for the past 17 years.
She argued that the educational opportunities for children, the status of women, health care and infrastructure in Afghanistan had all improved over the years, but that Afghanistan’s own army, now comprising some 350,000 soldiers, was still struggling to keep the country safe.
The defence bill, which must still be approved by the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, would raise the number of German troops deployed in Afghanistan by a third to 1,300.
It also changes Germany’s military operations in Iraq. After their successful work training Kurdish Peshmerga forces in north, German forces would now also be stationed in Baghdad.
Moreoever, it includes a plan to add 100 more troops to Germany’s 1,000-strong deployment to a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali in order to meet increased maintenance needs and Germany’s new responsibility for a military base in Gao.
Germany is also intending to extend for another year the Bundeswehr’s contribution to the UN mission in Darfur, South Sudan, and its contribution to the NATO Sea Guardian mission in the Mediterranean, which is supposed to secure shipping routes.
Germany currently has a total of 3,900 soldiers in active operations around the world.
Credit photo: @Michael Kappeler/dpa