150 German soldiers are stranded in Afghanistan after another plane suffered an equipment failure, and commanders are so strapped for functioning aircraft that they are considering using “a military VIP jet normally reserved for Chancellor Merkel”, as Der Spiegel reports, to get them home. The Telegraph has more:
Der Spiegel online reported that the Bundeswehr soldiers had expected to be flown home from a tour of duty in Afghansitan, but had become stuck in the town of Masar-i-Sharif on Tuesday because their Airbus 310 transport plane’s emergency oxygen masks were defective. […]
The breakdown comes as a further embarrassment for German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who has admitted that the military is facing severe equipment shortages which are hampering Germany’s efforts to meet its NATO commitments. […]
The equipment defects have led to calls for increased defence spending. But Ms Merkels’ Social Democrat coalition partners have said they object to more funding for the military.
This is the fourth air-related embarrassment for the German military in the last few weeks. First, a team of military advisors en route to Kurdistan was stranded in Bulgaria for a few days when their plane broke down; then, the Germans actually had to borrow a plane from the Dutch to carry a shipment of arms to the Kurds. Farcically, that plane also broke down. On September 30, another plane malfunction forced a plane carrying aid intended for Ebola victims in Africa to land in the Canary Islands, where the aid is still stuck.
As we wrote yesterday, it is admirable that postwar Germany confronted its past, embraced non-aggression, and transitioned to democracy. But part of being a mature democracy, as well as being a member of a defensive alliance like NATO, is being able to defend yourself. Like many European nations, Germany may have fallen below that threshold—and these stories increasingly suggest that, in a world on fire, even its low, on-paper strength may mostly be nominal.