July 9, 2018 / 9:36 AM / 2 months ago

German mid-term military budget not enough, says defense ministry

BERLIN (Reuters) - Planned government funding for Germany’s military, which faces worsening equipment and personnel shortages, will not meet its needs after next year and should be increased, the defense ministry said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO - Secretary General of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Peter Tauber and German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead CDU leadership meeting in Berlin, Germany, February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Defence State Secretary Peter Tauber told lawmakers the 2019 armed forces budget included significant increases, but hikes for the following three years under a plan approved last week by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet would leave the service short.

“Further increases in defense spending should follow in the next years ... to meet the Bundeswehr’s (military’s) needs,” Tauber wrote, citing a NATO target for members to spend 2 percent of economic output on defense.

Under the budget, military spending by Europe’s largest economy will rise to 1.3 percent of GDP in 2019 but then fall back to around 1.23 percent by 2022.

Germany has come under fire from U.S. President Donald Trump and some other allies for not raising that percentage, and the issue is likely dominate a NATO summit this week.

Trump renewed his criticism on Monday, saying Germany spent “1 percent” of its GDP on defense and the United States 4 percent.

“This is not fair, nor is it acceptable,” he said in a Twitter posting, adding that other countries were “nowhere close to their 2 percent commitment” either.

‘AT THE EDGE OF CAPACITY’

According to an internal ministry report cited by mass-circulation daily Bild, Germany’s armed forces were operating “at the edge of their capacity,” leaving them too stretched to take on new missions while equipment shortages were affecting training.

No comment was immediately available from the Defence Ministry about the report, the latest of several to raise alarms about the Bundeswehr’s readiness for combat after decades of spending cuts.

Merkel last week said she would continue pushing for increased military funding after years of cutbacks, and pledged Germany would be spending 1.5 percent of GDP by 2024.

Johann Wadephul, deputy head of the conservatives in parliament, said that target should be met by 2021. “We must demonstrate our credibility, especially vis-a-vis our European partners,” he told Reuters.

But Merkel’s center-left coalition partners, the Social Democrats, control the finance ministry and are resisting further increases.

Elizabeth Braw, a fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, said Trump’s “public crucifixion” of Germany could, given his unpopularity there, make it even tougher to win public support for higher military spending.

Bild quoted the report as saying none of the navy’s six submarines and only 90 of the army’s 179 Leopard 2 tanks were ready for use.

In the cyber realm, shortages could limit the ability to carry out existing missions this year and affect the quality of future ones, the newspaper added.

Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Andreas Rinke and Andrea Shalal; Writing by Andrea Shalal, editing by Thomas Escritt and John Stonestreet

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