The upgrade of Germany’s armed forces is proceeding at such a sluggish pace it will take 50 years to complete if it continues at its current speed, according to an annual report on the state of the Bundeswehr.
Eva Högl, the parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces, singled out the country’s slow defence procurement hampering the Bundeswehr’s much-needed upgrade. In her 170-page report submitted to parliament on Tuesday, she welcomed the announcement last year by Chancellor Olaf Scholz that included a special €100bn fund for military refurbishments and praised decisions to buy F-35 fighter jets, transport helicopters and armed drones.
But Högl said that even if some new equipment was on its way, in 2022 “not a cent had arrived from the special fund”.
She added: “If we stayed at the current pace and the existing framework conditions, it would take about half a century before just the current infrastructure of the Bundeswehr was completely renovated.”
Germany’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but last month it said that €30bn had been “contractually committed”, adding: “And as soon as the goods come in . . . we can pay that.”
Högl said that the war in Ukraine had exacerbated the already deep problems with equipment for the armed forces because “the sensible and correct” decision by Berlin to send an array of weapons to Kyiv had created gaps that had proved difficult to fill. She urged officials to ensure that the equipment was “replaced quickly in order not to permanently damage the operational readiness of the Bundeswehr”.
She repeated a previous call for the special fund to be tripled to €300bn, arguing that the existing figure would not be enough to make up for the serious shortfalls in the German armed forces.
Billions more, she added, would be required to replenish depleted stocks of ammunition, which are not covered by the €100bn fund, at a time when Europe is trying to keep pace with Ukraine’s ferocious consumption of artillery shells.
Högl’s report underlined the challenges faced by Germany’s new defence minister, Boris Pistorius, who was appointed in January after the resignation of his gaffe-prone predecessor Christine Lambrecht.
Though Pistorius has won praise even from sceptics of Scholz’s government and its response to the war in Ukraine, analysts warn that he must confront the enormous task of overhauling the ministry and speeding up the procurement system.
Pistorius has himself been arguing for an extra €10bn a year in ongoing negotiations over the 2024 budget to take annual defence spending to €60bn. But the Social Democrat defence minister has so far struggled to persuade the hawkish ministry of finance to approve the top-up.
Even that figure would fall short of the amount that Germany needed to fulfil its Nato obligation to spend 2 per cent of gross domestic product on defence. Berlin spent just 1.44 per cent of GDP on defence last year, according to provisional Nato figures for 2022.
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