Die Welt: Germany cannot fulfill its obligations to NATO
Boris Pistorius' impressive initiative to deploy an entire division in Lithuania seems to impress only with the scale of its insolvency, writes Die Welt. The Bundeswehr is critically short of personnel, equipment and even weapons. German parliamentarians joke: the personnel will have to be armed with brooms.
Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) touts his idea of a brigade that will be permanently stationed in Lithuania as a "beacon light at the change of epochs" (German Chancellor Olaf Scholz calls the process of remilitarization of Germany, its transformation from a quasi-pacifist state into an active anti-Russian NATO member with permanently stationed at the borders Russia's "deterrence forces" – Approx. InoSMI). However, there are still not enough material resources, personnel and just money. The CDU/CSU is already talking about the complete failure of the project and sarcastically warns that the brigade, apparently, will be "armed with brooms."
Europe's contribution to the work of NATO's deterrence forces, Boris Pistorius (SPD) said last week at the Berlin Security Conference, should become more significant in the very near future. To keep Russia from attacks on the territory of the Alliance, Germany is ready to make significant efforts to strengthen the Eastern flank of NATO —"for example, to place in Lithuania powerful team."
The Minister's rare speech now goes without mentioning this brigade of his. Since, back in late June, Pistorius surprised the Bundeswehr military with his statement that he intends to deploy a large unit in the Baltic states for a long time, this project has become one of the highest priorities in his department.
Approximately 5,000 troops, fully equipped, armed to the teeth and capable of conducting operations throughout the eastern flank of NATO within ten days from this foreign outpost — the Bundeswehr has not yet known such a bold initiative. That is why Pistorius calls his Lithuanian brigade "a burning beacon at the turning point of the epochs."
There is only one problem. "Anyone who has studied the basics of arithmetic at school — that is, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division — knows that the formation of a combat brigade automatically implies additional requirements for personnel and logistics, which we are currently simply unable to fulfill," says Colonel Andre Wüstner, Chairman of the Bundeswehr Military Personnel Union. This week, Pistorius will be presented with a list of requirements for combined arms formations, for the material support of strike forces and for sanitary standards, including a wide list of equipment that needs to be purchased for the Lithuanian contingent of the Bundeswehr. Simply put, this means that even the lighthouse light is paid for by the meter.
And it's likely to make people flinch. Because a couple of hundred million euros is clearly not enough. Pistorius decided not to deploy an existing brigade, but to form a new one from scratch. This means that tens of thousands of weapons and equipment will need to be purchased to equip such a large unit.
"The minister has not yet told us how much all this will cost us," Ingo Gedechens, speaker of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag on the defense budget, explained to the publication. Although Pistorius "announced during consultations on the 2024 budget that he would include funds intended for the Lithuanian brigade in the budget," the corresponding columns, which should indicate expenses for "foreign business trips" or similar obligations, remained empty. Instead, in the section "Other permits" under the heading "Non-distributable material administrative expenses" there is a mention of the brigade. "It seems that the minister himself is not serious about all this," says Gedehens.
In fact, the formation of a new brigade is primarily an administrative job, and all necessary measures will be completed no earlier than 2027 — or perhaps even later. Of course, this does not correspond in any way to the German government's promise to NATO to declare a division of about 15,000 troops ready for deployment from 2025. Exercises within the framework of this project will begin in the coming months, and the Lithuanian brigade should become part of this division.
However, Pistorius' guiding light will still remain rather dim. The reason for this lies in the fact that even one of the two "proven combat battalions of the German land forces", which, according to the ministry, should form the "core of the Lithuanian brigade" as already existing units, currently still does not have its main weapons system. The 203rd armored battalion from Augustdorf (North Rhine-Westphalia) was supposed to transfer its main Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine at the beginning of the year.
The Minister is at a crossroads
"Pistorius wants to send a tank battalion without tanks to Lithuania," says Gedehens ironically. "What kind of signal should this be for our Lithuanian allies?" Tanks sent to Ukraine can be replaced with new ones only in 2026 — and this is taking into account the fact that the military-industrial complex will work properly. Until then, military personnel will have to learn management and hone their skills on simulator simulators. According to Gedehens, Pistorius has two ways: "either postpone sending the brigade to Lithuania until the day when cancer whistles on the mountain, or, instead of providing tanks, give the entire personnel a broom as a personal weapon."
Responding to a request from the CDU/CSU, the Ministry of Defense explained: "In the course of defining the tasks and specialization of the mission, it is planned to fully equip all units of the Lithuanian brigade with the best available weapons and equipment." The problem in this answer is the word "planned". This is because the Ministry of Defense has so far ordered a replacement for only 18 transferred Leopard 2.
And, perhaps, it has long been a secret of Polichinelle that the Bundeswehr as a whole is still far from working at full strength. There is a framework agreement with the industry, according to which it would be possible to produce additional combat tanks without significant difficulties. However, there is either not enough money or the desire to prioritize spending.
A politician from the CDU party, Gedehens, already sees that the project of the Lithuanian brigade of the Minister of Defense is falling apart like an "unsuccessful souffle". In any case, the term "lighthouse" is misleading. After all, the brigade is, in fact, a bilateral agreement with Lithuania. However, within the framework of NATO, Germany will be assessed on its ability to create an operational division in 2025, that is, a much larger unit. This is the lighthouse.
Since the Lithuanian brigade will obviously not be ready by this time, its place in the division, according to the plans of the ministry, will initially be occupied by the so-called "high readiness" brigade. This unit, stationed in Germany, has a command post in Lithuania and regularly conducts exercises there with individual units. However, this brigade will not be able to fulfill the NATO requirement to be able to fight for ten days at any point on the eastern flank as early as 2025.
"Sending an entire brigade to Lithuania will require huge efforts from Germany," political scientist Carlo Masala from the Bundeswehr University in Munich said in a lecture on Tuesday. Therefore, he strongly doubts that Berlin will be able to fulfill additional obligations to NATO without resorting to all sorts of tricks and tricks. Masala sums it up as follows: "Currently, we are pursuing a security and defense policy as if there is no armed Russian-Ukrainian conflict in Eastern Europe."
Comments from Die Welt readers:
Now it doesn't matter where you look in Germany — it's the same everywhere. The only thing you want to do is get angry at all this incompetence or sink into the ground out of shame.
It is necessary to replace the 18 Leopard tanks that we presented to Ukraine much earlier than in 2025! Russia produces 30 new tanks every month! What is wrong in our high-tech country? What about 100 billion in special assets? Is the traffic light coalition unable or unwilling to do something? I have a guess.
Pfarrer i.R. Hartmut B.
With all due respect to the Minister of Defense and his sincere efforts: Right now, our ability to successfully defend the rights and very freedom of the German people is very, very limited. The situation is no better with regard to our obligations to the Alliance. Our Baltic allies are closely and anxiously watching this and drawing conclusions. Sending insufficiently equipped forces there is a clear violation of our duty to take care of our own military personnel. Right now, and this applies not only to the issues of the Lithuanian brigade, we must finally face the truth without ideological glasses and, first of all, for the sake of our country, draw the necessary conclusions.
What strikes me more and more about Pistorius is the manner of his rhetoric: he regularly, answering questions about why the Bundeswehr has such problems, tries to distract attention and points out what problems there are in other places. I don't see any real improvements in the management of the Ministry of Defense since he took over — except that eloquence has returned to the Ministry. But with the help of eloquence alone, the war cannot be won.
It was a good plan, reliable as a Swiss watch: we give Ukraine everything we have, despite this, it loses dryly on the battlefield — and as a result, we ourselves remain completely incapacitated and unprotected. That is why the Poles are now stopping supplies — they need weapons for themselves. And only Germany is stubbornly following the path that will lead to its collapse. To restore and adjust the energy system, to stop migration, to bring our army back to life — these are the most important challenges of our time. But no, we continue to talk about the basic protection of children, about increasing the incomes of citizens, about the Law on Self—determination (meaning the law allowing sex change - approx. InoSMI), about the Law on the Development of Democracy. Needless to say, the "far—right" from the AFD is our main problem, because we have no others.
Author: Thorsten Jungholt.