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Europe's Paper Militaries
German Army Adds Troops for First Time Since End of Cold War

Confronting an array of threats from an aggressive Russia under Putin to the east to a refugee crisis driven by multiple failing states in the Middle East and Africa, Germany is going to expand its military for the first time in a generation. The Financial Times reports:

After falling from 585,000 in 1990 to 177,000 today, the armed services are to rise by 7,000 new posts by 2023. About 5,000 new frontline posts will also be created through internal restructuring.

The government will ask Germany’s parliament to ease the current legal upper limit of 185,000 troops so that the military can respond more quickly to fast-changing security challenges.

The civilian payroll of 56,000 will also be raised by 4,400 to increase the support for the uniformed ranks as they face more complex tasks in an increasing range of foreign locations, which today include Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Mali.

This is a trend we’ve been following for some time: over the last few years, as Europe’s security situation has grown steadily darker even as Germany has cast off some of the shackles of its past and become clearly the leading nation in Europe, German public opinion has begun to shift away from the strict pacifism of old. Political leadership and even budget posture have followed. As the FT continues:

A recent opinion poll for the government’s Military History and Social Sciences Centre, found 45 per cent support for increasing troop numbers, compared with 15 per cent in 2009.

After limiting defence spending for 25 years, Berlin is boosting the military budget by 6 per cent over five years, starting with a €1.2bn increase in 2016 to €34.2bn.

But as we’ve also written, this is going to be a difficult and painful shift. Like trying to make back money you’ve lost in the stock market or shed weight you’ve gained, getting back into fighting form here is going to be some not-very-pleasant work. Today’s “big news” is, as you can see, a fraction of what was shed. There’s still a long way to go.

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  • Blackbeard

    There is less here than meets the eye. They created a small number of new “posts” but due to the tight labor market and various budget restrictions they do not have and are not likely to get actual soldiers to fill most those posts. Still it’s a beginning.

    • CapitalHawk

      Maybe they can just import some muslims to fill the spots. I’m sure that will fix all of their problems.

    • csthor

      This. Don’t take any “announcements” from the german MoD at face value because it’s most likely just a smokescreen to blind the german media from the core issue: This is not about the Bundeswehr, it’s about polishing von der Leyen’s media halo in advance of the 2017 federal election. All she does is trying to survive politically and even put up a decent facade for the voters as she still hopes to perhaps succeed “Mutti” Merkel at some point. As Blackbeard said there’s little money (certainly not enough to fix the shortages and issues) and getting enough people who actually stay is another challenge the Bundeswehr hasn’t mastered.

  • Mark1971

    Do they have enough rifles for them?

    • f1b0nacc1

      Ones that work? (see the G36 debacle if you aren’t familiar with it already)

      • Frank Natoli

        Because the barrel changed dimensions under sustained fire?
        Functionally its short stroke piston was superior to the M-16 direct impingement.

        • f1b0nacc1

          Poor materials choices, bad design (the floating barrel unfortunately had a polymer-based support which softened under thermal stress during high rate of fire), and very poor troop training (unlike American troops, who now have quite high levels of fire discipline, the Germans tend to spray everything withing range).

          Crap weapon from the start, though yes…better than the inherently flawed design used in the M-16.

          • Frank Natoli

            Verstehen Sie nicht. If a barrel is free floating, there should be nothing touching the barrel from its attachment to the receiver to the muzzle. What “polymer based support” are you referring to?
            M-16s are inherently free floating, but their factory handguards are too flexible and simple sling use can bend the handguard into contact with the barrel, hence rigid “float tubes” to prevent that. But that’s used for match purposes, not in the field.

          • f1b0nacc1

            The structure of the frame itself is polymer based

  • Frank Natoli

    During the Clinton Administration, when the Bundeswehr decided to make an appearance in the disintegrating Yugoslavia, it was necessary to use USAF assets at Rhein Main just to transport the German forces to the problem areas. And that was twenty years ago. And it’s gotten worse since then. The atrophy of all European forces, including the British and French, is appalling.
    Welfare state über alles.

    • f1b0nacc1

      You can go back further than that if you want. I remember on one of my NATO trips we had to ‘excuse’ Dutch troops from a chemical warfare drill because their beards made it impossible for them to use the MOPP gear.

      • Frank Natoli

        The Germans developed gas masks for their artillery horses in WW2. Perhaps somewhere there is a warehouse full of them and they could be lent to the Dutch?

        • f1b0nacc1

          You would put perfectly good horses at risk to protect the Dutch?

        • Angel Martin

          Joint Task Force Bundeswehr Nederlands Leger

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