Germany army troops can’t even muster enough basic gear for their NATO mission

The German Bundeswehr “lacks basic equipment” for its role in NATO’s rapid deployment force, severely limiting the force’s utility.

The German Defense Ministry said the items would be quickly procured, but for the time being, the Bundeswehr lacks protective vests, winter clothing and tents to be the “spearhead” army for NATO’s rapid reaction force.

News of the equipment shortages comes as Germany is preparing to take over NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) Army Command. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen is under increasing pressure to bring war stocks up to acceptable levels.

“Currently, the selected troops are going through the phase of preparation and mobilization,” spokesman Jens Flosdorff said in Berlin. During this phase, the ministry is checking which equipment is already available, and “what is still needed,” he said.

German media reports also follow the internal release of a defense ministry report that said German ground forces would not have enough tents until 2021.

The Army Command report, 10,282 mobile “accommodation units” are needed for the army’s deployment in the VJTF for the period 2018 to 2020, but only about 2,500 are available and they aren’t fit for the role.

Body armor and winter clothing, the report said, was also in such short supply it would be “impossible” under current conditions for the Bundeswehr to fulfill its VJTF leadership role.

That’s not all. In recent days German media have also reported that the Bundeswehr was also lacking sufficient tanks and operational aircraft to fulfill its duties, along with other equipment shortfalls like night-vision equipment and automatic grenade launchers.

Several German politicians were reportedly upset by the revelations. [source]

Analysis: For anyone who thought that President Trump was ‘out of line’ for suggesting, publicly, that NATO allies and in particular wealthy member states like Germany weren’t meeting their treaty obligations in terms of defense spending, this should provide him with all the justification he needed. He sees the intelligence reports; he knows what NATO is and is not spending if his national security staff is half as good as I suspect that it is.

Trump and his national security team also understand this is red meat for Russian President Vladimir Putin. It’s just these kinds of readiness issues that will embolden him in the future to move sooner rather than later against his European objectives (the Baltics come to mind). Without sufficient U.S. armor and other war stocks in Europe at the present time, and with the belief that NATO nations may be woefully unprepared for combat, what’s to stop him? 

Putin won’t risk a nuclear exchange, but I think he believes NATO wouldn’t, either. So that leaves conventional military power to stop him, and if the German army — the lead military in the VJTF — can’t even field enough tents and vests, the alliance is in trouble because if Germany, a rich member state, isn’t spending enough to keep basic stocks up to acceptable levels, are the poorer NATO nations? 

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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