This weekend I was writing about the dismay being expressed by various European leaders these days as they come to realize that the status quo is changing and they can’t simply take advantage of the United States anymore. One area where that’s abundantly clear is found in the subject of military spending. Western Europe, in particular, has had a pretty smooth ride since the Second World War, being able to save a lot of money by not funding large military forces and relying on America to keep them secure.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Germany. While we touched on this briefly yesterday, there are some recent developments in the news coming out of Europe which merit a closer look. Germany has already stated that they have no intention of hitting their required goal of spending 2% of GDP on their military for at least the next decade. In the meantime, their military has fallen into such a state of disarray that they can’t even certify enough pilots because there aren’t enough functional aircraft for them to log their required flight hours. (LA Times)
There are so few German army helicopters available for the troops that pilots have been forced to train in bright yellow civilian choppers leased from the German Automobile Club.
A chronic shortage of spare parts and assorted technical woes has grounded 29 of the Bundeswehr’s 130 camouflage-green colored helicopters. Acute shortages of parts have also left only 39 of the Luftwaffe’s 128 Eurofighter jets combat-ready — idled along with nearly half of the armed forces’ 224 Leopard tanks and five of its six submarines.
No country in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance has savored the “peace dividend” as much as Germany, which slashed military spending in half after the Cold War. And no country in NATO has drawn more criticism from President Trump for not carrying its own military weight than Germany.
It’s not just the helicopters and planes. As was previously disclosed, half of their tanks and all but one of their submarines are out of commission. Sadly, Angela Merkel has little motivation to act on these deficiencies with any sense of urgency. As the linked analysis points out, a strong military really isn’t a priority for most of her citizens. In fact, many take their less militaristic stance as a point of pride. Following the horrors of the world wars, generations of Germans have grown up idealizing the concept of a “world without war.”
It’s a beautiful thought, but it ignores one very significant reality. Germany, along with most of the rest of western Europe, was largely able to sit out the cold war and not get dragged into any other conflicts to a significant degree precisely because America was doing all the heavy lifting. Perhaps criticizing the United States and talking about how you may have to back off from this relationship at the precise moment when most of your army’s machinery is up on blocks with the tires having been stolen isn’t the best timing imaginable.
Here’s a thought. Angela Merkel managed to hold her tongue when Donald Trump was calling for a military parade in Washington, but she had previously criticized Russia for planning a similar display. Perhaps that’s because Germany couldn’t put together enough military hardware these days to stage a parade more than a block long.