Streetwise Professor

July 3, 2018

When It Comes to Its Pathetic Military, Economic Powerhouse Germany Can’t Even Manufacture Decent Excuses

Filed under: Economics,Military,Politics — The Professor @ 8:15 pm

Trump sent a letter admonishing European nations that have failed to meet their solemn promise to spend 2 pct of GDP on defense.  In reply, Merkel dispatched her Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, to deliver a whinge that would embarrass a teenager explaining to mom why he hasn’t cleaned his room.  For the last 10 years.

Shall we begin the beating? Let’s!

Nato, she said, was not just about “cash” — but also about “capabilities” and “contributions”.

Just what “contributions,” exactly? Tiresome, supercilious lectures, with a heavy emphasis on Germany’s moral superiority?  Nothing that actually goes boom or risks killing anyone downrange, apparently.

And what capabilities? By Germany’s own accounting, its lack of readiness is “dramatic”:

What’s wrong with the Bundeswehr?

  • Bartels pointed to “big gaps” in personnel and equipment. At the end of 2017, no submarines and none of the air force’s 14 large transport planes were available for deployment due to repairs.
  • Other equipment, including fighter jets, tanks and ships, was outdated and in some cases not fully operational because of bad planning or a lack of spare parts. Some air force pilots were unable to train because too many aircraft were being repaired.
  • Soldiers have experienced increasing levels of stress and there was a lack adequate leadership due to some 21,000 vacant officer posts.
  • The report said the government needed to pursue reforms “with greater urgency” and increase defense spending.
  • A lack of funding and inefficient management structures and planning were behind the problems. Germany has cut defense spending since the end of the Cold War. In 2017, it spent about 1.2 percent of its economic production in 2017 on the armed forces, which is below the 2 percent target recommended by the NATO alliance.

Other than that, they’re a powerhouse!

Tanks? Did you ask about tanks? Planes?

The Bundeswehr is due to take over leadership of NATO’s multinational Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) at the start of next year, but doesn’t have enough tanks, the Defense Ministry document said.

Specifically, the Bundeswehr’s ninth tank brigade in Münster only has nine operational Leopard 2 tanks — even though it promised to have 44 ready for the VJTF — and only three of the promised 14 Marder armored infantry vehicles. [An American tank company has 14 M1s, by the way.  A company.]

The paper also revealed the reason for this shortfall: a lack of spare parts and the high cost and time needed to maintain the vehicles. It added that it was also lacking night-vision equipment, automatic grenade launchers, winter clothing and body armor. [It would probably be more efficient to list what they aren’t lacking.]

The German air force is also struggling to cover its NATO duties, the document revealed. The Luftwaffe’s main forces, the Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jets and its CH-53 transport helicopters, are only available for use an average of four months a year — the rest of the time the aircraft are grounded for repairs and rearmament.

And I guarantee you, these problems are NOT because of intense use and deployment.  It is neglect and stinginess–pure and simple.

German leadership is apparently deaf.  So deaf that they can’t even hear Trump:

Bundeswehr Chief of Staff reacts: Volker Wieker defended the military, saying “no complaints have come to my ear either in Germany or from our allies.” He did however admit that combat-readiness needed to be improved.

Back to Frau van der Leyen:

“You can easily spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence without actually offering anything to Nato,” she said in Berlin on Tuesday evening. “The question for Nato is not just how much you spend nationally on defence, but how much does the country provide in terms of contributions that Nato needs.”

Maybe so, if this example of pointless military expenditure is representative of the best Germany can do.  But if you don’t spend squat you clearly won’t offer anything to Nato.  And squat is pretty much what your contributions are to Nato needs.  Training with broomsticks and shouting “bang! bang!” is not what Nato needs.

So let’s see whether you can spend money on defense and buy some capabilities with it, shall we?  Let’s put that vaunted German efficiency to work!

Germany, Ms von der Leyen stressed, was the second-largest supplier of troops to Nato behind the US, as well as the second-largest supplier of troops in Afghanistan.

Germany also has the second-largest population and economy in Nato, and on a per capita basis and a GDP basis, so it should supply the second-largest number. Even so, it definitely does not pull its weight.  It is a free-rider by every measure whose contribution does not match its population or economic heft.

Insofar as Afghanistan is concerned, Germany has suffered fewer KIA there than not just the US, but the UK, Canada, and France.  On a per capita basis, it has suffered far fewer than Australia, Italy, Poland, Denmark (which has suffered only 14 fewer KIA, despite its vastly smaller population–and the disdain with which Germans treat them), Spain, the Netherlands, Georgia, Latvia, Estonia, New Zealand, Norway, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

None of which, I might add, hosted anything like the Hamburg Cell of Al Qaeda for years.

Given that record, any decent, self-respecting government official (perhaps an oxymoron!) would pass over Afghanistan in silence.

The minister also pointed to the prominent role of the German Bundeswehr in Nato’s push to bolster the security of member states in eastern Europe.

Prominent? Like how, precisely?  The VJTF is the primary Nato contribution to the security of eastern Europe, and we’ve already seen just how pathetic Germany’s contribution to that is.

“To be clear: we stand by the 2 per cent goal that we set ourselves in Wales. We are on the way to meeting it. And we are ready, and have shown that we are ready, to take on substantial responsibilities inside the alliance,” the minister said.

“We are on our way to meeting it.” On your way? When will you get there? In time to celebrate Putin’s 90th birthday?

I can guarantee you that this pathetic response will not mollify Trump.  To the contrary–it will only make him more pissed off.  Meaning that the next Nato summit will be loads of fun!

In other news, Germany says that sanctions will not affect Nord Stream 2:

Germany has been assured by the United States that any sanctions imposed on Russia will not affect the building of a gas pipeline to bring Russian gas to Europe, a spokeswoman for the German economy ministry said on Friday.

The spokeswoman said that guidelines provided by the United States suggested that construction of Nord Stream 2 would be unaffected.

I dunno, Fritz.  Sounds like a dare to Trump, and if he takes you up on it, it will be to screw you, not the Russians.  And continuing to make pathetic excuses for reneging on Nato commitments just might spur him to do so.

Finally, Merkel, who has become the epitome of the careerist politician who clings to power at all cost, jettisoned her supposedly principled moral stand on refugees and agreed to set up camps at the German border to detain them for processing.  Her Bavarian gadfly, Horst Seehofer, was apparently mollified by this concession.

The Social Democrats in the coalition have yet to sign off.  I would not be surprised if Merkel uses their opposition to renege on her commitment to Seehofer–it is probably as firm as her commitment to boost defense spending.

I will not be surprised at anything Merkel will do to hang on to power.  No doubt she will suffer pretty much indignity to do so. Because that is pretty much her overriding concern, to which everything else is subordinate. Meaning that I sincerely hope that Trump continues to bust her chops about Nato, and pretty much anything else, for that matter.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Why again does NATO still exist?

    Comment by Andrew Stanton — July 4, 2018 @ 7:38 am

  2. If they’re worried that their increasing contribution wouldn’t ‘provide contributions that NATO needs’, they can always just write the check to us. We’ll take care,of it, thank you.

    Comment by Howard Roark — July 4, 2018 @ 8:48 am

  3. There is a very good excuse, as far as I am concerned: last time Germany had a strong military, it did not end very well for anyone around. No excuse for not ponying up, though.

    Comment by Ivan — July 4, 2018 @ 1:19 pm

  4. Why again does US have military bases in Germany seven decades after World War II? Allowing the US army to setup bases on your land – does sound like a contribution.

    US should stop playing the global policeman and people was start taking care of their own security

    Comment by Dhruv — July 4, 2018 @ 3:20 pm

  5. The pathetic level of German spending on military is a recent phenomena.

    By recent, I mean since the end of the 1980s. Military spending tanked after re-unification – dropping by nearly a whole % of GDP in the 5 years subsequent to the fall of the Berlin wall. Presumably this happened as part of a huge budget re-alignment to absorb the cost of re-unification. This forced budgetary starvation completely hollowing out whatever modest military capability they had up to that point.

    Of the main NATO powers, it seems to me that only France and the US have maintained or increased their ability to project military power since the 80s.

    The collapse of the UK’s cabilities seems even more dramatic to me. If Argentina made a grab for the Falklands these days, the UK would have zero capability to launch any kind of defence. The British Navy in particular has degenerated into a joke – it can field a single aircraft carrier but no actual planes that can launch from it.

    Comment by derriz — July 4, 2018 @ 4:15 pm

  6. Derriz

    It’s difficult to land planes on an aircraft carrier that’s still undergoing sea trials. The planes are bought and due to ship in the next two months…according to plan. The next aircraft carrier comes on stream in two years. Spending on defence still meets NATO target of 2%, fiddled slightly, I agree. France? They used the UK for their heavy lift capability in Mali

    Comment by Recusant — July 4, 2018 @ 5:09 pm

  7. As for the Falklands. Have you checked Argentina’s military recently? They haven’t got one. Meanwhile the Falkands have a permanent RAF and RN detachment. When Argentina launches its next invasion with a trawler and a Boy Scout with a shotgun, I’m sure they’ll cope.

    Comment by Recusant — July 4, 2018 @ 5:15 pm

  8. Recusant, the Royal Navy at the time of the Falklands had almost 4 times as many heavy ships than it does now. It has no global presence unlike back then and it’s headcount has been decimated so that it can’t even fully man the fewer than 30 significant ships in its fleet. Say what you like about France but they deployed and engaged a fully escorted aircraft carrier to Iraq a few years ago – when is the last time the RN projected such power?

    Comment by derriz — July 4, 2018 @ 6:08 pm

  9. @Dhruv–Uhm, the Germans have profited enormously from the US bases on its soil. Which is why they freaked out recently when it was rumored that the US would leave them.

    And your last point is a non sequitur. Trump’s point is EXACTLY that these people should start paying their own way. What about “free rider” don’t you get?

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 5, 2018 @ 7:46 am

  10. @Dhruv–Japan pays the US ~$2 billion/year to have US troops based there, South Korea about $1 billion. South Korea just paid about 90 percent of the cost of a new air base. In contrast, Germany says that it pays “in kind” by letting US troops use its roads and the like. See the difference?

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 5, 2018 @ 12:23 pm

  11. SWP:

    And what of the once vaunted German military corps (or as Obama loved to call it: corpse)? What happened to an honored tradition of discipline, tactics & strategy?

    Any whisper from them? Or have they all been bulldozed (Blitzkrieged) by European gender politics into submissive eurocrats?.

    Very curious. Since the tentacles of SWP’s blog reach far & wide… perhaps a source in the German military can shed some light.

    VP VVP

    Comment by Vlad — July 7, 2018 @ 10:50 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress