Germany and Defense: A Military Readiness Crisis?


Germany is at the heart of Europe and key to effective defense towards Russia in both the direction of Central Europe and the Baltics.

Having forces which can defend Germany effectively which is an Article III NATO obligation is the foundation for its ability o support an Article V obligation, which is to come to the defense of the allies.

Although much attention has been focused on President Trump’s NATO statements, at the end of the day, the US has deepened support for key NATO partners, not weakened them.

Rather than focusing on the verbal gymnastics of President Trump, Chancellor Merkel clearly needs to pay attention to the REALITY of Germany’s performance and obligations.

A recent article by John Vandiver in Stars and Stripes highlights the German situation:

Germany’s military is virtually undeployable and security experts say it is too weak to meet its obligations to its allies, as it prepares to assume command of NATO’s crisis response force next year.

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.”

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.

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 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.”

One obstacle to boosting defense spending could be Trump himself. The U.S. president is deeply unpopular in Germany and appearing to kowtow to Trump’s demands in the form of ramping up military investment could be politically damaging.

The last point is an interesting one.

Last time I looked, President Trump was not winning a beauty contest in the UK or in Northern Europe but transformation of defense capabilities was a priority.

Frankly, the Trump Administration has done much to strengthen the credibility of the American forces underlying the Alliance and President Trump himself has clearly not been putting moving red lines in the sand.

If dislike of an American President can be an excuse not to defend yourself, then it is just that.

Yet another excuse not to get serious about the defense of Germany or Europe.