A German Clash over Trump’s NATO Demands, Spiegelonline

U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand that NATO member states pay their fair share has turned into a political hot potato ahead of German elections later this year. But the debate ignores a salient fact: The German military is in a terrible state…

The best overview of the state of the German military is provided once a year in a report submitted by Armed Forces Commissioner Hans-Peter Bartels. As an SPD member of parliament for many years, Bartels is a credible voice from the perspective of the Social Democrats. And the image that he paints of the Bundeswehr is dark indeed.

One year ago, he described how the Saxony-based 371st tank battalion, prior to taking on its role as “spearhead” of the NATO Response Force, had to borrow 15,000 pieces of equipment from 56 other German military units. In another example, the 345th artillery training battalion, based just west of Frankfurt, was officially supposed to have 24 armored artillery vehicles at its disposal. In reality, though, it had just seven, of which six were on standby for NATO and could not be used. And the seventh was in reserve for the six on standby. Troops reported to Bartels that they hadn’t been able to carry out training exercises at the site for the last three years…

The lack of equipment, Bartels wrote in his most recent report, has led to a system of sharing by necessity. “It is often the case, with Navy units that are returning from a mission, for example, that as soon as they dock in their homeport, pieces of equipment are immediately dismounted from ships and then remounted on those vessels heading out to replace them, such as (radar devices). The components wear out much more quickly due to the frequent mounting and dismounting, such that the process becomes self-reinforcing.”..

The military had already shrunk in the two decades since the end of the Cold War, from more than half a million soldiers to just 205,000 in 2011. The number of Leopard 2 battle tanks at the Bundeswehr’s disposal likewise plunged during that same time period, from 2,000 to 225. The additional cuts announced by Guttenberg, largely a consequence of the financial crisis, were a step too far. “The national goal of budget consolidation,” Guttenberg said at the time, “is the most important strategic parameter” for the reorganization of the German military. Läs artikel