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Old 16th Feb 2018, 07:10
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NATO, Germany and the VJTF

German military short on tanks for NATO mission

The German military has secretly admitted that it can't fulfill its promises to NATO, according to documents leaked to Die Welt newspaper on Thursday.

The Bundeswehr is due to take over leadership of NATO's multinational Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) at the start of next year, but doesn't have enough tanks, the Defense Ministry document said. Specifically, the Bundeswehr's ninth tank brigade in Münster only has nine operational Leopard 2 tanks — even though it promised to have 44 ready for the VJTF — and only three of the promised 14 Marder armored infantry vehicles.

The paper also revealed the reason for this shortfall: a lack of spare parts and the high cost and time needed to maintain the vehicles. It added that it was also lacking night-vision equipment, automatic grenade launchers, winter clothing and body armor.

The German air force is also struggling to cover its NATO duties, the document revealed. The Luftwaffe's main forces, the Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jets and its CH-53 transport helicopters, are only available for use an average of four months a year — the rest of the time the aircraft are grounded for repairs and rearmament........

Mark Galeotti, senior researcher and head of the Prague-based Center for European Security, said that "Germany's various military woes" were no secret to the rest of NATO. "For a long time, Germany has under-spent dramatically, and, let's be honest, wrapped itself in the mantle of its non-militarist foreign policy," he told DW, before adding that it had long been clear that the country hadn't been pulling its weight in the alliance.

According to the leaked document, the army would now be trying to cover its "capacity-relevant deficits out of the stocks of other units" — even though that would impact training and exercises elsewhere. But Galeotti said that tanks present a particular technical challenge that could not necessarily be met just by throwing money at the problem. "It's not just about buying the actual chunks of hardware, it's also about having precisely the spare parts, the technical infrastructure, the transporters, the refueling stations," he said. "Tanks are surprisingly temperamental for these great armored beasts of war, which is why this deficit can't quickly be made up, even if the money was available."

Given Germany's quasi-pacifist priorities (in NATO's military mission in Afghanistan, Berlin had a reputation among allies for keeping its troops out of harm's way), it is not surprising that the country should be cutting corners with tanks, Galeotti explained. "Tanks are nothing but war-fighting instruments," he said. "A soldier in a jeep can be used in humanitarian deployments in Africa, can do all kinds of things. A tank is just a tank. And it's that kind of outright military spending that is particularly where Germany has failed in the past two decades.".....
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