Is GERMANY ready for WAR? – VisualPolitik EN

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Is GERMANY ready for WAR? – VisualPolitik EN

Almost tied with France, Germany has the largest military budget in the European Union. Despite this, the Bundeswehr, Germany’s Armed Forces, has serious problems that limit its operability. This is something that now, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, German politicians seem to want to change. The question is: To what extent is Germany’s military prepared for war, and what do German politicians want to do about it? In this video we give you all the details.

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Almost tied with France, Germany is the country with the largest military budget in the entire
European Union.
According to data compiled by the World Bank, almost a quarter of all military spending
in the countries that make up the European community club corresponds to the German armed
We are talking about the Bundeswehr, which literally translates as Federal Defense.
VisualPolitik fans, Germany is one of the countries with the longest military tradition
on the planet, which, as you all know, has not brought great joy to the history of mankind.
But, obviously, the situation today is completely different.
The Bundeswehr was founded in 1955, 10 years after the fall of the Nazi regime and the
end of World War II.
During that time, the Allied Control Council that had controlled the country since the
end of the First World War prohibited the country from having its own armed forces,
and dismantled and outlawed any military activity related to the former Wehrmacht , the armed
forces of Nazi Germany.
That was until 1955 when the ban was lifted and Federal Germany founded the Armed Forces
we know today.
Of course, a lot has happened since then.
Over almost 70 years, the German army has undergone at least seven major reforms, both
structural and strategic.
From the first orientation based on the US military itself to the last two that have
resulted in a huge downsizing.
Check it out.
Between the late 1980s and the mid-1990s alone, a period that coincides with the collapse
of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the Bundeswehr lost some 150,000 soldiers.
And all in all, up until this point in time, the armed forces of West Germany, today’s
Germany, have been reduced in size by 60 percent.
Of course, this need not be a bad thing.
If there is one thing that characterizes modern armies, it is that, thanks to new technological
capabilities, they need far fewer troops.
The problem is that these technological capabilities require a lot of resources:
And the question is…, has this effort been made in Germany?
Does the largest power in the European Union have well-equipped armed forces capable of
carrying out complex deployments and missions?
Are Germany’s armed forces ready to go to war?
Well, let’s take a look.
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Germany is by far the leading economic power in Europe and in terms of GDP the fourth largest
in the world, behind only the United States, China and Japan.
Hold on a moment, however, because despite its economic strength and public accounts
that are among the healthiest in the old continent, Germany’s defense effort accounts for not
much more than 1% of its Gross Domestic Product.
And although spending began to increase after the Russian annexation of Crimea – under
the leadership incidentally of the then defense minister, Ursula Von der Leyen – it still
remains well below the 2% that as you know NATO requires of its member countries.
Well, this should not really be of much concern to us either: practically no NATO member meets
this requirement, and after all, the defense of Europe is supposed to be carried out collectively.
However, the problem that Germany has – and that many
other countries also have – is that despite spending more than 50 billion euros every
year, this figure goes almost entirely to salaries, disastrously planned structures
and a lot of current and bureaucratic expenses.
And to top it all off, this lumbering bureaucracy and the endless contracting processes have
caused the arrival of new equipment to be delayed for a long time or simply to remain
on stand-by.
In other words, the problem in Germany is not only that only a little more than 1% of
its GDP is allocated to defense, but above all that most of this money goes to fatten
inefficient structures that have nothing, absolutely nothing to do with operational
To be graphic, and without wishing to offend anyone, a substantial part of the money goes
to pay the salaries of men in their 50s and older, in many cases with bulging beer bellies
whose job is to spend their day to day at an office desk.
And, well, let’s just say that’s not the prototype of what we all understand as an operational
So, of course, in the German case one should not so much talk about the “lack of effort”
in defense as above all about the poor investment and planning of the armed forces.
After all, 50 billion euros is not exactly small change.
It is far more money than South Korea spends on defense each year, almost double what Australia
spends and more than double Israel’s budget.
And yes I know, Germany is much, much bigger than Israel or South Korea.
But here we are mainly talking about operational capabilities.
And as you will see Germany is far, far behind these two countries.
And the problem is largely to do with this chart.
Look at it.
Only 18% of German military expenditure is spent on military equipment.
This is also below the NATO minimum of 20%.
And the fact is that precisely because of their historical past, German politicians
have always been reluctant to buy weapons.
What’s more, defense spending is not an electoral trump card in German society either.
According to a 2017 poll, just 9% of Germans considered it important to increase defense
spending compared to 91% who considered it irrelevant, inadequate or had no opinion.
Since the post-war period, Germany’s position has been based on soft diplomacy as its major
foreign policy gamble.
A stance that, as has been demonstrated with Ukraine, can have shortfalls.
But, anyway, the point is that this lack of spending on military equipment has made Germany
extremely NATO dependent, or rather US dependent, for everything to do with military matters.
After all, Germany is, after Japan, the country in the world with the second highest number
of US military installations.
And as curious as it may seem to you, the American giant has many more US soldiers stationed
in this territory than, for example, in South Korea, a country that, if you remember, is
technically still at war.
We are talking about a total of more than 35,000 troops.
In short: poor planning, lack of spending on equipment and dependence on the United
States have resulted in extreme sloppiness, leaving the Bundeswehr in a deplorable state.
And no, we are not exaggerating in the least.
C1 (“No matter where you look, there’s dysfunction” – High-ranking German officer at Bundeswehr
Faced with such a mess, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, German politicians suddenly
seem to have realized that war in Europe is not completely out of the question.
Or at least that European deterrence does not count for much today.
This is a situation that has simply taken the Berlin leadership by surprise.
And the truth is that today, if the Bundeswehr had to enter into combat, it is possible that
it would barely be able to withstand a few days of war.
And it is not only us saying this.
Take a look.
C2 (“The happy-go-lucky German – surrounded by friends, with a rising standard of living,
not worried about security, if there’s a problem the Americans will take care of it – that’s
a thing of the past”.
– Ekkehard Brose, president of the Federal Academy for Security Policy)
C3 (“Germans lulled themselves into a false sense of security, into this belief that there
would never be another war in Europe.
[…] The upshot is that over two generations we forgot how to defend ourselves.”
– Armin Papperger, chief executive of the arms manufacturer Rheinmetall)
Well, to remedy this long military decline, which we will discuss in detail in a moment,
the new Scholz government announced a historically extraordinary budget to modernize the armed
I’m sure most of you remember this news story:
N1(Germany to Boost Military Spending in Latest Historic Shift
Germany will channel 100 billion euros this year into a fund to modernize the military
– Bloomberg)
In addition, the Scholz government has also committed to reaching 2% of GDP in annual
military spending by 2024.
So the question is …. How difficult a task does Germany really have ahead of it to bring
its armed forces up to date?
What have been the effects of so much neglect in defense?
What should Germany’s priorities be when it comes to investing all that money in the coming
Well then….
Let’s take a look.
The once feared German army is now little more than a bunch of tanks, planes, helicopters
and submarines that, in many cases, cannot even shoot, fly or sail.
And keep in mind, these were basically the conclusions of the Social Democrat Hans-Peter
Bartels, former commissioner for the armed forces of the Bundestag – the German parliament
– after conducting an extensive report in 2019 on the country’s military capabilities.
His report was full of devastating conclusions.
The report served to illustrate an uncomfortable reality for the government: the German army
even lacks sufficient critical equipment such as bulletproof vests, night vision equipment,
transport helicopters and radios for secure communications.
And the shortage is not an exception, but structural.
So much so that, to give you an example, on a visit by US officials to Lithuania they
were dismayed to see that Bundeswehr personnel were communicating with insecure cell phones
because they did not have enough encrypted military radios.
C4 (“There was no one German soldier who was familiar with the radio system used there
or had been instructed in how to use it.
[…] When it comes to the equipment available in international exercises, the Bundeswehr
is regularly the ‘weakest link in the chain’.”
– German parliament report)
And this is not all.
Of all the military equipment Germany has in its inventories, only a small fraction
is ready for deployment.
And then a lot of the equipment they have in place has not lived up to expectations
when it comes to operations.
The list of disappointments in the German inventory is long, very, very long.
For example, we have the case of the F-125 class frigate Baden Württemberg.
This is from a new class of frigates of which the German government purchased four units
in 2007 and which, after years of delays and huge cost overruns, were delivered to the
Navy overweight and with many operational limitations compared to the original plan.
This has made it impossible for the frigates to fulfill the function for which they were
They even had to be returned to the manufacturer after delivery for modifications, something
that had never happened before in the history of Germany.
N2(The German Navy Decided To Return Their Bloated New Frigate To The Ship Store This
Christmas – The Drive)
But wait because there is much more.
For example, a battalion of Panzergrenadiers participating in a NATO exercise in Norway
found itself short of night vision goggles and MG3 machine guns, and… well, the result
was as funny as it was embarrassing.
N3 (Germany’s army is so under-equipped that it used broomsticks instead of machine guns
– Washington Post)
In a NATO exercise.
The most unfortunate part of this story is that in order to participate in the exercise
they had to borrow more than 14,300 pieces of equipment from 56 different units of the
Bundeswehr, and even by doing that, they still fell short.
And of course this is not an exception, it is the playbook in any branch of the military,
be it land, sea or air.
But do you want another example?
Only 9 of its 51 Tiger attack helicopters and less than 30 percent of its Eurofighter
and Tornado fighters could fly at the end of 2018.
The reason?
The lack of maintenance and spare parts available in the armed forces’ stocks means that the
already scarce equipment has ended up in storage as if it were a kind of inoperative reserve.
So much so that the air force, the Luftwaffe, has even seen the resignation of pilots who
have left in frustration because they simply could not fly.
N4 (German Pilots Aren’t Getting Enough Flight Time.
The problem is that the Luftwaffe doesn’t have enough flyable plans for its pilots to
– National interest)
Can anybody tell me what pilots who can’t fly are good for?
And it keeps going because it’s a similar story with the Leopard 2 tanks, the crown
jewel of the German heavy infantry, only half of which are operational.
What’s more, only 150 of the 350 Puma armored vehicles are ready for use.
Of the 15 A400M transport aircraft, only three were airworthy in 2018, and there was a season
when not a single one of the six German submarines could sail.
Do you understand now why Germany has sent almost no equipment to Ukraine to support
their resistance against the Russian invasion?
If they barely have any functional equipment for themselves, how can they give it away
to another country!
[Well, that’s beside the fact that they don’t seem to like it much either, to tell
you the truth!]
C5 (“In the short-term we have nothing available that we can supply really quickly and promptly.”
– Annalena Baerbock, German foreign minister)
The fact is that, apart from this, all these shortcomings also entail a clear lack of training
and preparation of the troops, something that, of course, would also greatly affect their
morale in the case of combat.
The flying time of Luftwaffe pilots is just one example, but if we look at the recruitment
figures it becomes even clearer.
N5 (German army struggles to attract much-needed recruits.
Number of new soldiers fell last year to an all-time low of 20,000 – FT)
Now, think about it for a moment, with this kind of situation, who is going to be motivated
to join the armed forces?
Well, the question that many of you are probably asking yourselves at this point is…
But, is there a solution to all this mess?
Is 100 billion extra budget enough to rebuild a military that is in tatters?
What should Germany spend all that money on?
Well, let’s find out.
With all that we have just told you, I am sure that most of you get the picture: the
German armed forces are obsolete.
And not only obsolete, but in many cases in an almost decrepit state.
And this despite spending more than 50 billion euros every year on defense.
Well, this is precisely what explains the apparent and historic paradigm shift that
Germany seems to want to give to its defense policy.
That and also the 100 billion euros they have approved to rebuild their armed forces, which,
by the way, over the course of the next five years if we add current spending will mean
meeting the 2% of GDP military spending commitment required by NATO.
The question is… what should they spend all this money on?
What will Berlin’s shopping list be with an amount of money that is practically equivalent
to everything that an economy like Ecuador produces in a year?
Well, the truth is that for now the shopping list for the German defense is practically
a secret.
However, there are several clues and several guesses we can make about which equipment
will – or should be – among the next German acquisitions.
So far, what Germany has made public is that it will buy 35 fifth-generation F-35 fighters,
considered the most advanced fighter in the world, to replace its old Tornadoes in order
to have air superiority in the event of a conflict along with nuclear capabilities.
They will also acquire 15 Eurofighters with electronic warfare capabilities, and armed
Equipment that in some cases was announced before launching the special fund.
In total Germany expects to spend about 41 billion of that 100 billion euros on the air
force, and about 19 billion on the navy, with which they are expected to acquire submarines,
frigates and corvettes, as well as multipurpose combat ships.
A further 17 billion in equipment, which will be used almost entirely to upgrade and make
operational the German army’s existing armor, tanks and artillery.
And of course the last fundamental area that Germany is seeking to address with this enormous
amount of resources is the lack of basic equipment supplies.
For example, according to Aylin Matlé, a security expert at the German Council on Foreign
Relations, almost 21 billion will be spent both on new communications technologies, such
as secure radios and cybersecurity, and on the soldiers’ own personal equipment.
The question is, will all this be enough?
Probably not.
As you have already seen, the state of the Bundeswehr is complicated, very complicated.
But it will undoubtedly mark a turning point for the German army, which will have to be
accompanied by a restructuring of spending to eliminate all the zombie military structures
that consume a lot of resources but are not operational.
Structures that are to blame for the fact that the money has not gone to military technology
and maintenance, but to other areas.
And VisualPolitik fans, this task is much, much more important than simply spending more
and reaching 2% of GDP.
Which is, for instance, what Greece is doing.
The question is, are German politicians willing to do all this?
In the end, the armed forces are usually one of the largest employers in almost any country,
and there is often great resistance.
And that’s without getting into how difficult it is to overcome old vices.
Take a look.
N6 (11 July 2022: Germany accused of making stealth defence cuts.
The German defence budget will be in decline once the impact of a special €100bn fund
is stripped out, according to official documents cited by newspaper Bild.
Critics say the one-off fund is obscuring cuts to day-to-day spending.
– The Telegraph)
Did you know that the German armed forces were in such a deplorable state?
Do you think that the solution is to put in more money, or do you think that 50 billion
euros a year is enough, and the problem is how the funds have been spent?
Leave us your opinions here below, in the comments.
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Once again, thank you for being here.
All the best and see you next time.


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