Mark Collins – Germany Hopes to De-Atrophy Bundeswehr

Further to this October 2015 post,

Europe’s Atrophying Militaries, German Section, Part 2

the government tries to turn things around–and hopes to get serious industrial benefits (see end of quote below):

Germany Targets Defense Increases, Bigger Multinational Role

Germany has declared its ambitions to become a more reliable and steadfast military partner and lead the way in securing the future of Europe’s defense industry.

While the message of Germany’s defense Weissbuch (White Paper) 2016 may been lost in the quagmire of Britain’s decision to exit the European Union (EU), in the context of recent terror attacks and Turkey’s attempted coup it well may represent a significant turning point for the country’s armed forces.

After decades of being hindered by dramatic defense cuts, the resurgence of a belligerent Russia has prompted the country’s politicians to begin repairing the damage.

Spending is finally increasing, and work has begun on wider equipment modernization. In the past six months, Berlin has established an aviation plan, and signed off on deals for new helicopters; new programs, including one for a ground-based air defense system, are also expected to be approved later this year.

German Defense White Paper

Germany wants to take a leading role in overseas military operations
Industry should be “Europeanized” rather than fragmented along national borders
Calls for greater EU harmonization across defense equipment programs..

This all seems a long way from 2014, when auditors were tearing apart the country’s procurement system and equipment readiness was at an all-time low [see link at start of the post].

Germany has since committed to spending 2% of its gross domestic product on defense [on verra], but the white paper warns that there needs to be a “concrete result of this expenditure,” rather than just spending for spending’s sake…

The white paper also points out that deficits still remain in key capability areas, including UAVs [see “Germany to Lease (un-armed) Israeli ‘Heron’ Drone for (UN) Mali Operations (Canada for Mali too?)”; Canada for its part remains years away for having a serious drone capbility, armed or otherwise], aerial refueling, satellite communications, cyberprotection and cyberdefense [see “Bundeswehr Getting Cyber Serious“].

Perhaps more radical, however, is Germany’s tougher stance on international operations. For decades, postwar sensitivities meant German politicians were unwilling to commit the country’s armed forces to international military operations, in particular in combat. Berlin stayed steadfastly out of NATO’s campaign in Libya, while in Afghanistan, its presence was limited to the relatively benign north of the country.

And in the ongoing operations against the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the German government has limited its aircraft to reconnaissance operations.

The intent now is to break that mold and play a leading role in international operations.

“Germany must be an attractive and reliable partner across the entire range of security instruments. This ambition requires a continuous effort as well as the availability of human, material and thus financial resources,” the white paper states. “Germany is prepared to provide a substantial, decisive and early stimulus to the international debate, to accept responsibility, and to assume leadership.”

The white paper also calls for a strengthening of the EU’s defense power, and while it does not directly call for creation of a so-called EU army, the document expresses Germany’s wish for a “common European Security and Defense Union.”

Along the same lines, it calls for a Europeanization of defense, arguing that the EU’s defense industry has become “highly fragmented along national lines.”

The paper adds, “This results in unsatisfactory cost structures, disadvantages in international competition, and potentially higher burdens for our defense budget.”

To remedy this, Germany calls for better planning and interoperability among European allies, and a whole new approach to multinational programs; national requirements have plagued projects such as the A400, Eurofighter and NH90.

The report calls for a single nation to lead such programs [emphasis added]—as Germany has chosen to do with the multinational EuroMALE unmanned surveillance platform—and for production to be carried out in the nation with the best industrial and technological expertise, rather than across all the national participants, as was the case with the Eurofighter.

Time will tell whether Germany’s partners on such projects will agree.


Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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