Germany’s armed forces are underfunded, under-resourced, and barely capable of fulfilling the country’s NATO obligations, according to a damning leaked report to the Die Welt newspaper.
The German broadsheet reported on Tuesday it had seen confidential documents intended for the Bundestag’s Defense Committee in which it is revealed the country’s federal defense, or the Bundeswehr, is suffering from a “considerable capability deficit” and while it can contribute to some NATO tasks — such as strengthening the alliance’s eastern flank — it can only do so “with restrictions.”
The classified document shows, for example, that the German army is currently unable to provide any artillery forces for NATO’s battle group deployed in Lithuania; it also lists “significant restrictions” in relation to several other NATO tasks the Bundeswehr is either contributing to currently or expected to contribute to in the near future.
In addition, a concerning lack of equipment has resulted in sizeable gaps in operational readiness, the report shows. For example, a short supply of tap-proof digital radio devices has resulted in the force’s command military units having limited ability, and the lack of equipment extends to Germany’s contribution to NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF).
Germany will take over the VJTF as its leading nation in 2023, providing up to 2,700 soldiers to the military unit of around 5,000 personnel. It is a critical component of NATO’s deterrence and defense in Europe, with a requirement to be ready at a moment’s notice to respond to major crises without delay.
However, the confidential report, using a traffic light system to grade operational readiness, classifies Germany’s VJTF equipment as yellow. It explains that the Bundeswehr’s operational readiness for the VJTF is “partly limited in terms of quality,” citing digital control of the VJTF as only being “guaranteed to a limited extent” because of delays in important IT projects. It concedes that “only minimal requirements” can be met at present.
The country’s air defense is at a similar level of preparedness, with the paper stating that the protection of German forces on the ground can only be ensured “to a very limited extent,” and the operational readiness of medics is restricted by a “lack of equipment.”
Germany’s Federal Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht has reportedly accepted the flaws exposed by the document, and has called for a rapid increase in the federal defense budget, according to Die Welt.
“The gaps in human resources, material equipment, infrastructure, spare parts ,and ammunition that have been created by decades of structural under-funding cannot be closed with the stroke of a pen,” Lambrecht stressed in an accompanying report.
The minister was, however, reluctant to promise quick success in getting the country’s armed forces up to speed, conceding that the modernization of the Bundeswehr requires “realistic expectation management.”