There are times that I – or you – look at a political debate and end up asking ourselves “What in buggery are these people talking about?” No, not the usual sort of wibble when some grandmother starts to screech about the ickle ones, but when seemingly sensible people are discussing something usefully sensible but still don’t have the first clue.
As with this about the German military budget.
The background here is that they’ve agreed to meet the Nato military spending target of 2% of GDP. No, this isn’t because Nato is some bunch of warmongering bastards, it’s because it’s a mutual defence treaty. So the other elebenty members do indeed want to make sure that the financial behemoth of Europe is coughing up its share. Not just so that it can come to the aid of another member who is attacked (recall that mutual bit) but also so that those sweating the money to make sure they can aid in defending Germany (mutual anyone?) know that the Krauts are doing their bit.
So, they’re at perhaps 50% of budget target at present. Which leads to this entirely hilarious muttering in the FT:
The German government is facing growing pressure both at home and abroad to spend more money on its armed forces. In Berlin, however, officials and analysts have started to debate an altogether different question: if the money is found, can it actually be put to use?
It’s an entirely dingbat question.
“Germany spent €37bn on defence last year. If we wanted to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence by 2024 that would mean almost doubling the budget to around €72bn,” said Hans-Peter Bartels, the armed forces commissioner of the German parliament. “We cannot just double the size of the Bundeswehr. How is this going to work?”
Marcel Dickow, a defence expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, makes a similar point: “The Bundeswehr cannot spend that kind of money. It does not have the procedures in place, and it wouldn’t even know what to spend it on.”
With much of the defence budget fixed (more than 20 per cent is spent on rents and pensions alone) the important variable is the portion set aside to buy weapons and equipment.
And that’s bollocks.
What’s the first thing that gets cut in any budget under pressure?
Maintenance. The effects of which are rather noticeable in the German armed forces:
Only a handful of the German Air Force’s Eurofighter jets are combat ready, according to a report in the magazine Der Spiegel published Wednesday.
Due to a technical problem with the defense system of the combat aircraft only 10 of the Luftwaffe’s 128 Eurofighters are mission ready, according to the report.
The problem stems from a cooling liquid leak in the aircraft’s wing pod sensors, which are used to recognize hostile jets or incoming attacks. Without the defense system the Eurofighter jets are not combat ready.
The German Bundeswehr lacks tanks to fulfill its obligations to NATO as the ninth tank brigade stationed in Münster, which according to army’s plan should be engaged in NATO’s new force, now has only nine combat-capable of the required 44 Leopard-2 tanks and three of the 14 Marder infantry fighting vehicles, newspaper Die Welt reports, citing a secret document of the country’s Defense Ministry.
Even the FT:
In the era when the Bundeswehr’s only task was to deploy small contingents as part of international missions, two decades of budget cuts could be covered up by cannibalising parts and materiel from across the army. Now, however, the hollowing out of the German military is showing everywhere — from grounded aircraft and unusable submarines to the pervasive lack of spare parts and staff shortages.
It gets worse in any military organisation as well. For what is the second thing cut? Training budgets. Because no one has the working equipment to go training with therefore more money is saved by not going training.
There’s absolutely no difficulty at all in expanding the German military budget. Training and maintenance – the sort of level of both they should be doing anyway – will take care of it and more.
In fact, for pretty much all of Europe’s military that’s true. After these decades of peace a doubling of military budgets wouldn’t even touch the sides, it’d just allow the levels of maintenance and training that should be taking place to do so.