German military needs ‘substantial improvements’, official says

By Thomson Reuters Mar 12, 2024 | 8:00 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) – The German military still lacks sufficient equipment and personnel despite a 100 billion euro special fund set up following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces said on Tuesday.

In her 2023 annual report, commissioner Eva Hoegl said the “Zeitenwende” policy shift was on the right course with a total volume of 47 billion euros ($51 billion) in procurement projects approved by the Bundestag lower house of parliament.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the Zeitenwende, a new era of more assertive foreign policy backed by more military spending, on Feb. 27, 2022, just days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As part of the Zeitenwende, and as a first step to bring the military back up to scratch after decades of attrition following the Cold War, Germany in set up the fund to purchase modern weapons and pledged to reach NATO’s target of spending at least 2% of the national GDP on defence from 2024.

“Despite the remarkable efforts, it remains to be said that substantial improvements in personnel, equipment and infrastructure are still a long way off in the second year of the Zeitenwende,” said Hoegl, who acts as an advocate defending the rights of the troops.

Hoegl said the German military is facing an “enormous personnel problem”, with its goal of increasing troop numbers to 203,000 by 2031 from the current 181,000 difficult to achieve.

“In terms of equipment, the Bundeswehr is not yet fully operational,” added Hoegl, citing a lack of ammunition, smaller items, such as night vision goggles, and large equipment like tanks and air defence systems.

Hoegl also took aim at troops’ “desolate” living quarters, saying a fundamentally new approach was needed to address mouldy showers and dilapidated accommodation.

($1 = 0.9148 euros)

(Reporting by Alexander Ratz and Miranda Murray, Editing by Rachel More and Alison Williams)