The German Federal Army did not expect this. After decades of lean cows justified by the end of the Cold War, the Bundeswehr has just been granted a special fund of 100 billion euros. Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced it, to everyone’s surprise, during an extraordinary session of the Bundestag, three days after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Getting back to basics
The Social Democrat wants a “Efficient and state-of-the-art Bundeswehr”able to “defend the country and support its allies”with “flying airplanes”from “ships that go to sea” and “soldiers who are optimally equipped for their missions”. This is currently far from being the case. A few days ago, the thousand German soldiers present in Lithuania as part of a NATO mission lacked jackets and underwear adapted to the cold. Financed by credits, this envelope of 100 billion euros is added to the 50 billion defense budget planned for 2022 and will make it possible to reach 2% of GDP, as promised to the allies since 2014.
→ ANALYSIS. Faced with the invasion of Ukraine, the powerless German army
“100 billion euros seems like a lot, but above all it will allow us to achieve what we have committed to do in the past”, commented the Minister of Defense, Christine Lambrecht, on public television. “It’s less about increasing our capacities than upgrading ourselves, because we have very large deficits”, she added. The list of priority needs is long, starting with the purchase “communication devices adapted to current technologies” and “basic equipment” for the soldiers. This envelope will also make it possible to advance projects that have been slowed down for years for financial reasons. This is the case with the purchase of new transport helicopters and the choice of the successor to the Tornado fighter plane, capable of carrying American nuclear bombs.
“Made in USA” or “made in Europe”?
Before the Bundestag, Olaf Scholz confirmed favoring the American model F35 and wanting to advance the electronic equipment of the Eurofighter. The Chancellor is counting more than ever on European projects, namely the development of a tank and a combat aircraft of the future (linked to the Scaf program, air combat system of the future), with France. “These projects have an absolute priority for us”, said Olaf Scholz, who also endorsed the arming of drones, after years of blocking his own party.
“This money will be used to clean up the Bundeswehr”observes Christian Mölling, specialist in security issues at the DGAP center in Berlin. “There are no surprises in the announced projects. They are integrated into the European project. It’s about building tanks with France, submarines with Norway,” he recalls.
A coat of arms to restore
After decades of internal cost-saving measures, the Bundeswehr can now rely on a highly developed military industry. In 2019, Germany was the fourth largest arms exporter in the world. The day after his speech in the Bundestag, Olaf Scholz received representatives of the sector. The giant Rheinmetal says it is capable of delivering equipment for 42 billion euros. These 100 billion euros could also restore the very degraded image of a federal army which, despite advertising campaigns, is struggling to recruit.
With 180,000 soldiers, it wants to exceed the 203,000 mark. “It’s a quantitative and qualitative challenge”, comments André Wustner. The president of the Bundeswehr federation expects the government, among other things, to change the law to facilitate bridges between the army and the private sector in order to attract highly qualified personnel. The general opinion is that a rapid upgrade can only be achieved on one condition: by reducing the “bureaucratic mammoth” what constitutes the federal army. “It is not possible for calls for tenders to last ten or even fifteen years”, recognized Minister Christine Lambrecht. This challenge will certainly be the most difficult.