German Military In Tatters

Germany’s Military Sinking to ‘Basket Case’ Status
Germany is a special case in that they had to absorb the dirt-poor East Germany into their country and doing that was tremendously expensive. But Germany is not atypical among our NATO allies.

Britain excepted, which spends around 2.9% of GDP on the military, virtually every other Nato member spends less than 2% of GDP on their military. This is one of the things that makes French and German obstruction so infuriating. When we believe it’s in our own interest to remove a dictator and liberate a country we’re tied down by Lilliputians who are in their current situation by choice. They don’t have to have rigid labor markets and high unemployment — they’ve chosen it. They don’t have to have these elaborate welfare states — they’ve chosen it. Let them live with these choices as we must live with ours.

Jürgen Thum nods toward a 25-year-old camouflaged German military truck and lists the parts for which replacements are no longer available: muffler, brakes, bits and pieces of the engine.

It “should be in a museum,” he said.

Instead, this truck and others like it are part of the German armed forces’ aging war machine, an increasingly anachronistic apparatus designed to fight the Soviet Union in a tank war that never came. A string of German administrations have promised change, but lingering complexes over the experience of World War II, the cost of absorbing former Communist East Germany and other economic constraints have checked the pace of modernization.

Germany, once America’s strongest military ally, is now one of the worst military laggards in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The German military has been effective in peacekeeping operations from the Balkans to Afghanistan, where it now shares command of the international force in Kabul. It has several hundred highly trained special operations troops, excellent mine-clearing equipment and some of the quietest diesel submarines in the world. It has a strong medical corps and a state-of-the-art flying hospital, and more troops deployed overseas than any other country besides the United States.

But even if Germany did want to take part in a war on Iraq, military experts say it would find it hard to fight alongside the modern United States military.

“They’re a basket case,” a senior NATO official in Brussels said.

The United States has urged Germany and other NATO allies to transform their traditionally static armed forces into high-tech, mobile services that can better share the task of policing the world.

Most NATO allies have followed Germany’s lead in letting defense spending languish since the end of the cold war, investing in rich social welfare programs instead. As a result, America’s annual defense budget is now nearly double that of the 18 other NATO countries combined.

While the United States spends 3.3 percent of its gross domestic product on its armed forces, Germany’s military spending last year totaled just 1.5 percent of G.D.P.

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