May 16, 2018
Is Germany's Military Readiness Problem a Critical Vulnerability for NATO?
By John Vandiver, Stars and Stripes
Pressure on Berlin is mounting after a series of revelations has exposed the German military as one of the least combat ready in NATO, despite its economic heft.
“The readiness of the German military is abysmal,” said Jorge Benitez, a NATO expert with the Atlantic Council in Washington. “For years, German leaders have known that major elements of their armed forces, such as tanks, submarines and fighter jets, are not fully operational and can’t be used for actual military missions....”
New German capability gaps have been brought to light in recent weeks, piling up on top of old ones that Berlin has failed to fix.
Among the failures: none of Germany’s submarines are currently operational, only four of its 128 Eurofighter jets are combat-ready and the army is short on dozens of tanks and armored vehicles needed for NATO missions....
On Monday, Merkel conceded German “credibility” was at stake and that defense expenditures must increase.
Yet Merkel also vowed during last year’s election campaign that spending on Germany’s welfare state — including a national pension plan, public health care and nursing care, generous unemployment benefits, social welfare and education — would continue to take precedence over the increased military expenditure demanded by Trump.
Von der Leyen is requesting a $14 billion boost over current budget plans. The request is facing resistance from Germany’s finance ministry, which has planned a roughly $6.6 billion increase over four years.
Von der Leyen’s office called the current plan “inadequate in view of the huge accumulated needs and required modernization, particularly in the medium term....”
“Germany has the largest economy in Europe, but has been dragging its feet on fixing its scandalous defense problems,” Benitez said. “Part of the problem is political and reflects the willingness of German leaders to consistently inhibit defense spending for the sake of other priorities.”