Severe underfunding of the military is putting Germany’s security at risk, the head of the country’s influential armed forces association warned on Thursday.
Lt-Col Andre Wüstner called for an increase of €15bn (£13bn) by 2021 and said that if Angela Merkel’s government fails to act it will risk “incalculable consequences for our security”.
The warning comes as Mrs Merkel is expected to face intense pressure from Donald Trump over defence spending when they meet for talks in Washington on Friday.
President Trump has demanded Europe pays more towards the cost of its defence and he is believed to be increasingly focused on Germany, where military spending lags far behind Nato’s target of 2 per cent of GDP.
Lt-Col Wüstner’s remarks are evidence of growing frustration within Germany’s military over the issue of funding.
“The armed forces have no more understanding if the government continues this lack of resources in a world full of threats,” he told Welt newspaper.
The UK is one of a few European nations to meet NATO’s 2% target
“The government must understand that its no longer just about managing security, but shaping it,” he said. “If they want to reassure the people of Germany that their protection is once more the first and foremost duty of the state, they have to prove it. Action must follow, and it starts with the future funding of the Bundeswehr.”
Lt-Col Wüstner’s intervention comes after a parliamentary watchdog warned earlier this year that equipment shortages were putting Germany’s ability to meet its Nato commitments in doubt.
Hans-Peter Bartels, the parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces, warned in an annual report that operational readiness is “dangerously low” and the military is “not equipped to meet the tasks before it”.
Only 95 of the German army’s 244 Leopard main battle tanks were operational at the time of the report because of maintenance issues. None of the German navy’s six submarines were operational, and only nine of a planned 15 frigates are in service.
None of the Luftwaffe’s 14 A400M transport aircraft were airworthy on several occasions last year, and replacement aircraft had to be chartered to bring serving troops home.
Mrs Merkel’s government has pledged to increase defence spending by around €9bn (£7.8bn) over the next few years, but critics say it is not enough.
Plans for more than €1bn (£870m)in new orders were leaked to the press this week, but they still fall far short of the figures being spoken of by Lt-Col Wüstner and others.
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