A Greater Role For The German Army?
By admin October 24, 2014

ursula-von-der-leyen-auf-dem-nato-flugplatz-hohn-With the biggest economy in Europe, Germany’s first female defence Minister Ursula Von Der Leyen wants the German army to play a greater role in the international arena. Last month she dispatched German army volunteers to help combat Ebola in the African continent, and although she has not yet joined in the bombing of the Islamic State, she has sent weapons to Iraqi Kurds.

When she boarded a Transall transport plane to Iraq for the grand delivery, the equipment including anti-tank weapons, machine guns and rifles had not yet arrived. This is because the planes with the cargo had been grounded en route for repairs. In another incident the volunteers sent to Africa to fight Ebola were stranded in the Canary Islands after technical issues with their transport. In a third incident when Germany sent a warship to the Horn of Africa to combat pirates, the vessel had arrived without its Sea Lynx helicopters because of maintenance problems.

Inspectors reporting to Germany’s Bundestag (Parliament) said that only a portion of its tanks, submarines and helicopters are operational as there seems to be a lack of spare parts. Ms Ursula Von Der Leyen claims that these issues stem from the failure of her predecessors and have come to light because more is being expected of the German army.

With an aggressive Russia in Eastern Europe and radical armed Islamist groups in the Middle-East, some are now questioning whether Germany can meet its NATO obligations. As the 28 allies renewed their commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on armed forces in the NATO summit in Wales last month, Germany has steadily cut its military spending to 1.3%, putting it 14th among the allied countries.

Given post-war Germany’s radical pacifism, increasing the defence budget would be an unpopular move domestically and internationally. With an army that has been reconstructed after World War Two largely for territorial defence, German public opinion remains largely against more foreign intervention. Even though its allies have pulled thousands of troops from German bases in recent years, the role of the army remains unclear.

The lack of military preparedness presents a clear test for Ursula Von Der Leyen. In the short term she is seeking to lease transport planes from its allies (which she has already done with the Dutch) to relieve its old Transall plans while Germany awaits to receive the newer A400M models. In the long term however, Christian Moljing, a defence expert at the German Institue for International & Security Affairs in Berlin says ‘’communicating the fact that you need more money because you’ve spent so poorly and unwisely over the last decade is a very difficult thing to do.”

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