Germany promises military boost 

Germany promises military boost 

German troops in Kunduz in Afghanistan. Source: Wikimedia



Germany is due to increase its armed forces amid rising security fears

The Bundeswehr said it be boosted to almost 200,000 personnel over the next seven years, days after US Vice President Mike Pence called on Nato members to increase military spending.

Showing awareness of the historical sensitivities, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told the media: “One has to ask whether it would really calm Germany’s neighbours if we turned into a big military power in Europe and … spent over €60 billion a year in weapons. I have my doubts.”

Donald Trump has repeatedly demanded that European powers pay more towards defence.

Trump has described Nato as “obsolete”.

Nato agreed at the Wales Summit in 2014 to boost military spending to 2 per cent of GDP by 2024 while Germany now spends about 1.2 per cent.

The German armed forces are due to recruit 20,000 more troops by 2025, bringing its numbers to 198,000.

The British armed forces have 196,410 personnel.

Defence minister Ursula von der Leyen said: “The Bundeswehr has rarely been as necessary as it is now. Whether it is the fight against Isil [Islamic State] terrorism, the stabilisation of Mali, continuing support of Afghanistan, operations against migrant smugglers in the Mediterranean or with our increased Nato presence in the Baltics.”

Germany has just deployed tanks and hundreds of troops to Lithuania to deter Russian aggression as part of a wider Nato deployment.

Before reunification, West Germany was considered the first line against a Soviet invasion and the Bundeswehr numbered 500,000 active personnel.

Germany ended conscription in 2011 and troop numbers fell to 166,500 last June, a record low.

Some Cold War historians described West Germany’s army as “perhaps the best in the world” but cutbacks saw troops using broomsticks rather than rifles and Mercedes vans rather than armoured-personnel carriers on Nato exercises.

Gabriel said the defence ministry’s first priority should be to tackle delays and technical challenges with existing procurement programmes.

“Our biggest problem at the moment is that the equipment doesn’t fly, sail or drive,” Gabriel said.

A new German A400M transport plane was grounded this month during von der Leyen’s visit to German troops in Lithuania, while other major weapons programmes have been delayed.


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