The German government has come under fire for failing to act fast enough to bolster its army, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz accused of “breaking promises” made to the country’s soldiers nearly a year ago.
Three days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Mr Scholz pledged €100 billion (£86 billion) in extra spending on the Bundeswehr, as he declared the start of a “new era” in which Germany would do “everything it takes” to defend Nato’s borders.
Nine months later, however, critics complain that not a cent of that money has yet been spent, leaving the army less capable of fighting a war than it was before the invasion.
“The defence ministry is still working like a German bureaucracy in times of deepest peace, but it needs to be put on a war footing,” Johann Wadephul, deputy head of the conservative CDU in the Bundestag, told The Telegraph.
Munitions should have been bought “by the summer at the latest,” he claimed, adding that the Bundeswehr – the German army – was now “at its limit” in terms of meeting its Nato obligations.
“Munitions could have been ordered a long time ago. I’ve been told by arms companies that they offered munitions but the government simply didn’t order,” Mr Wadephul alleged.
“Of course you can’t buy battle tanks that quickly, but absolutely nothing has happened, that’s the problem,” he stated.
A scarcity of munitions is widely viewed as the most acute problem, with the required investment estimated at €20 billion. NATO forces are supposed to have enough munitions to last for 30 days of war, but German stores would reportedly only last for a few days.There is also a shortage of basic kit. Soldiers say that their Nato counterparts mock them for their outdated radio equipment, while all-weather clothing is in such short supply that they have to give it back when they return from duty.In a fiery speech to the Bundestag on Wednesday, opposition leader Friedrich Merz (CDU) accused Mr Scholz of “breaking a promise” to the country’s army that he would increase the military budget.According to Mr Wadephul, Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht shoulders the blame for the sluggish pace of the rebuild.”Mr Scholz understands the importance of the moment, the person who isn’t doing her job is Ms Lambrecht,” he said, describing her as “completely overwhelmed” by the size of the task.
Ms Lambrecht (SPD) defended her record in the Bundestag, saying: “You can’t just order military equipment off the shelf like in a hardware store.” She claimed this week that she was “finally acting… after years in which past governments ignored the armed forces,” a reference to the fact that the CDU ran the defence ministry before she took over last December.An order for three dozen F35 fighter jets worth over €7 billion from US firm Lockheed Martin will be put to the Bundestag for approval next month, while purchases of dozens of transport helicopters and tanks are also in the pipeline.But the criticism hasn’t just come from the ranks of the opposition.Eva Högl, the Bundestag’s military commissioner, who is a member of the ruling Social Democrats, has also warned the defence ministry that it is taking too long to order new equipment.”We cannot afford to carry on as before. The situation requires a quick change of course,” Ms Högl told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung this week.She said that she “feared” that the government wasn’t doing enough.Sebastian Schäfer, a senior figure in the Greens, a junior coalition partner, also said that arms procurement applications from the ministry of defence “have been too slow in coming”.Underlying equipment issues have plagued the German army for years.
Among the most embarrassing instances was the now infamous revelation in 2015 that a tank brigade had used painted broomsticks during a Nato exercise to cover up the fact that they didn’t have any guns.The military budget increased substantially after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, but it has not been enough to get the army up to scratch. Defence experts have warned that delays to new orders will mean Germany is left at the back of the queue as arms firms try to keep up with a long list of requests from other western countries.“The longer Germany fails to put in its order, the longer it will have to wait,” Christian Mölling, a Berlin-based defence analyst, told broadcaster ZDF.
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