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Germany reveals huge military shortages

The Bundeswehr is still suffering from thin ranks and inadequate equipment, a senior official has warned

Germany is still struggling to resolve issues that have been plaguing its military for decades, an annual report prepared by the parliamentary commissioner for the Bundeswehr, Eva Hoegl, has shown. Despite efforts to boost the ranks, the personnel shortage actually grew worse over the past year, Hoegl admitted when presenting the document on Tuesday.

In May 2022, Chancellor Olaf Scholz unveiled an ambitious military overhaul plan aimed at significantly expanding the nation’s fighting force. The government said at the time that it was planning to pour a whopping €100 billion ($107.35 billion) into its military in order to field the largest NATO army in Europe. This came as the conflict between Moscow and Kiev was still in its early stages.

However, the results of those efforts are yet to be seen, according to Hoegl’s report. By the end of last year, the military numbered just under 182,000, a figure actually down from the 183,000 in uniform in late 2022. The report also stated said that the Bundeswehr will fall short of the government’s target of 203,000 troops by 2031.

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According to the commissioner, the dropout rate in the military is “still very high,” while the number of new applications was even lower than the year before.

“The Bundeswehr is aging and shrinking,” Hoegl warned, adding that some 20,000 positions within the Armed Forces remain unfilled.

The issue has apparently reached such proportions that Defense Minister Boris Pistorius is willing to consider enlisting non-nationals into the ranks. “We would not be the first armed forces in Europe to do this,” he said in January, adding that there were people living in Germany for generations without acquiring citizenship.

With its numbers falling, the Bundeswehr is still struggling to provide its forces with the necessary equipment, the report said. The military faced a shortage of ammunition, spare parts, tanks, ships, and aircraft, according to the annual overview.

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The lack of modern radio equipment for troops has reached such proportions that it has led to difficulties with communication, including with NATO partners, and has affected the German-led multinational battle group stationed in Lithuania.

“There is a lack of material from large equipment to spare parts,” Hoegl said, adding that the shortage had become “even greater” due to the military aid Berlin has provided to Kiev.

Germany has emerged as the second biggest single military aid donor to Ukraine throughout the conflict. According to the German Kiel Institute for World Economy, Berlin has spent around $19 billion on arms for Kiev, sparking concerns among some German lawmakers.

In November 2023, MP Johann Wadephul warned that some “crucial” units would last no longer than two days in battle, at a time when replacements purchased for the Bundeswehr often go to Ukraine instead.

On Tuesday, Hoegl admitted that the Bundeswehr “still has too little of everything” and “substantial improvements are still a long way off.”


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