As Germany prepares to assume the mantle as the head of NATO’s crisis response force in 2019, its military forces are in a horrible state of readiness that has left the military virtually non-deployable.
Despite their economic strength, security experts claim that the Germans will be unable to meet their obligations and that they are among the weakest armed forces in NATO.
“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.”
The military dysfunction is likely to re-emerge as a flashpoint between Berlin and Washington when President Donald Trump attends a NATO summit in July.
Berlin’s persistent shortcomings and resistance to meeting NATO spending targets is likely to further strain relations with Washington and risks a standoff that could eventually test the unity of the alliance and the American commitment to it.
Trump, long ambivalent about the value of NATO, remains fixated on Germany as a security free-rider: The alliance “helps them a hell of a lot more than it helps us,” Trump said in December.
Among the failures: none of Germany’s submarines is operational, only four of its 128 Eurofighter jets are combat-ready and the army is short dozens of tanks and armored vehicles needed for NATO missions.
In addition, troops are short on the basics: body armor, night vision gear and cold-weather clothing.
The situation is so dire that 19 helicopter pilots from Germany’s Bundeswehr were forced to turn in their flight licenses because of a lack of training time.
“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.”
Many are attempting to blame the problems that Germany has to President Trump. That he is so unpopular that any show of upping its defense spending would be a sign of kowtowing to him. That is simplistic and ridiculous. What about their commitment to their NATO allies?
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Photo courtesy US Army