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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Russia’s Nightmare Comes True: Germany’s Military Is Back

Eurofighter Typhoon
German Air Force Eurofighter. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Last week, German Chancellor Olag Scholz made a shocking announcement, declaring that Germany would massively increase its defense spending in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

If Berlin carries this plan out, German rearmament may be the most significant geopolitical consequence of Russia’s unprovoked aggression.

A Brief History of German Rearmament

Upon its establishment, the Federal Republic of Germany was prohibited from fielding armed forces. It soon became evident, however, that NATO would require German troops in order to defend the central front from Warsaw Pact forces.

Re-arming Germany was deeply controversial even in Western Europe (especially France), but in 1955 the Bundeswehr was brought into existence. The Bundeswehr reached nearly half a million men and had that reputation of fielding the best ground forces in Europe. By the 1980s it formed a critical part of the NATO plan to meet and defeat a Warsaw Pact attack in Central Europe, rather than retreat to the English Channel or rely on strategic nuclear weapons.

Germany’s Anemic Military

Facing the massive economic and social crisis of absorbing East Germany at the Cold War’s end, Germany predictably allowed its military capabilities to deteriorate.

Unlike Poland, Germany lacked a border on the former Soviet Union and a culture of fear about Russian revanchism. Unlike France and the United Kingdom, Germany lacked substantial overseas commitments.

Unlike anyone other than perhaps Japan, Germany was still haunted by the ghosts of World War II aggression. Thus, there was little reason to maintain a large military establishment. Nevertheless, Germany participated in NATO military operations over Kosovo and in Afghanistan.

Restrictions on German forces in the latter led one American soldier to quip “why are the Germans only terrible at war when they’re on our side?” In recent years, the most notable news to come out of German military circles has been about a complete lack of readiness in both the land and air branches.

And then Russia invaded Ukraine, and it appears to have transformed German security policy overnight.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz declared that Germany would increase its defense budget until it exceeded the 2% NATO benchmark, an increase of more than 30%.  The announcement was greeted positively by the German public, which seems suddenly to have awoken to the threat of a hostile and resurgent Russia.

And thus far, fears of German rearmament in Europe appear invisible. Scholz has backed up the decision to rearm by taking steps to reduce German dependence on Russian natural gas and will allow the transfer of lethal arms to Ukraine.

What a Rearmed Germany Might Look Like

There’s no doubt Germany will find places to spend its money.

The first increases in spending should go to resolving long-term readiness problems in the Bundeswehr ground and air forces. Indeed, while some of the increases may support Germany’s navy, we would expect the bulk of German rearmament funds to flow into ground and air forces. Germany certainly has the defense industrial base (DIB) to make rearmament happen, and indeed to become the driver of defense investment across the region.

In terms of specific equipment, Germany had more or less decided to go with a combination of F/A-18 Super Hornets, EA-18 Growlers, and Eurofighter Typhoons to replace aging Tornados. It is possible that Germany might expand that deal or even revisit it, given the acquisition of the F-35 by several NATO partners. Could Germany add F-35s?

The Germans are short on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and may try to remedy that problem in a hurry by acquiring aircraft from Turkey or the United States.

Germany may step up scheduled acquisition of Leopard 2 tanks and Puma infantry fighting vehicles.

At sea the Germans are stuck with the overlarge and under capable Baden class frigates, ships specialized for presence and low-intensity warfare that, at the moment, seem like floating white elephants.

Implications

Denmark followed up Germany’s decision with a declaration that it would also increase its defense spending beyond the 2% mark. The potential entry of Sweden and Finland into the NATO alliance would give Germany a crucial role coordinating the defense of the alliance’s northern flank.

This is a profound change in German security and foreign policy thinking, and one that cannot be welcome in Moscow. Putin’s invasion has made Russian security far more precarious than it was two weeks ago.

Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Dr. Robert Farley is a Senior Lecturer at the Patterson School at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Farley is the author of Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force (University Press of Kentucky, 2014), the Battleship Book (Wildside, 2016), and Patents for Power: Intellectual Property Law and the Diffusion of Military Technology (University of Chicago, 2020).

Written By

Dr. Robert Farley has taught security and diplomacy courses at the Patterson School since 2005. He received his BS from the University of Oregon in 1997, and his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 2004. Dr. Farley is the author of Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force (University Press of Kentucky, 2014), the Battleship Book (Wildside, 2016), and Patents for Power: Intellectual Property Law and the Diffusion of Military Technology (University of Chicago, 2020). He has contributed extensively to a number of journals and magazines, including the National Interest, the Diplomat: APAC, World Politics Review, and the American Prospect. Dr. Farley is also a founder and senior editor of Lawyers, Guns and Money.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Commentat

    March 9, 2022 at 12:33 am

    Russia’s nightmare could well come true if US and Germany combine their soldiers and march toward the east. To moscow.

    Let’s picture this: US sends 30 divisions of well-fed and well-armed men consisting of jason van dyke types and germany adds another 30 divisions of oskar dirlewanger types and bingo, you get an army no one wants to trifle with.

    It’s going to be a real nighmare for russia if sych an army romps across the ukraine-russian border.

  2. A Ukrainian realist

    March 9, 2022 at 7:55 am

    Unfortunately, such an army would never reach Moscow. Even if they weren’t nuked (most probable outcome) they would be greeted the same way the Ukrainians are “greeting “ the Russians today.

    Unless an army is led by a ruthless killer like Hitler there is a doctrine of “You broke it, now you fix it”. We have found out in Iraq and Afghanistan exactly what that meant. Russia did not learn this lesson in Afghanistan-so they are going to find it out in the Ukraine. Simpky letting the Ukrainians wear down the Russians (whilst we support them in arms and by torpoding the Russian economy) is sufficient long term to destroy Russia’s attempt to conquer the Ukraine.

    I wish that did not entail the deaths of 10,000s of Ukrainians and Russians but that is on Tsar Putin, not on the West nor on the Ukraine.

  3. samuel

    March 9, 2022 at 8:56 am

    Saying Germany’s military is “back” at this point in time is laughable. Germany’s military is a joke. They are poorly funded, poorly supplies, and poorly motivated. In their present state they won’t be worth a crap in and upcoming battle.

    If the Ukraine war ends soon so too will Germany’s commitment to gearing up their military. Currently, they are not a reliable ally. Maybe in five years, but I doubt it.

  4. D3F1ANT

    March 9, 2022 at 9:20 am

    LOL! Why is Germany’s AF a nightmare for Russia? Germany runs on Russian gas. Russia can close the tap any time and Germany’s planes are paperweights.

  5. gatz

    March 9, 2022 at 10:52 am

    This is madness. Germany was never de-nazified, thanks to the cold war. There is increasing neo-nazi activity in the German military, police, and across German society. And they are anti-American, even though America is the best thing to ever happen to Germany.

  6. Alex

    March 9, 2022 at 11:20 am

    Very interesting. The German army is returning for what? To attack again and be defeated? So who is this a nightmare for? Yes, journalists are not what they used to be.

  7. Ben Colder

    March 9, 2022 at 11:45 am

    Its about time the US has defended the Germans since the world war ended and now the US military is all woke and no go so Germany has no choice .The US military has gone completely to woke since Brandon took over even West Point is turning out woke communist officers look at Milly and the sec of def Austin both are jokes both are woke aholes.

  8. Michael

    March 9, 2022 at 11:55 am

    Germany’s military will NOT be used against Russia, but against the US/UK very soon – once a Catholic alpha male leads Germany and responds to all the evil that the US/UK has spread across the world.

  9. J. W. Cox

    March 9, 2022 at 3:19 pm

    Most of your commentary is evidence that the German military is NOT back and will not be anytime soon. Even assuming that the German Bundestag – and voters – will support and sustain Scholz’ decision.

  10. John smith

    March 10, 2022 at 12:29 am

    “If Berlin carries this plan out, German rearmament may be the most significant geopolitical consequence of Russia’s unprovoked aggression.”
    Let take a pause on that and think from Russia’s view. NATO/ US Missiles and biological warfare labs at most borders. Not that I think Brandon would do anything about it looking at our own border today (I wonder if they meaning china Russia Iran snuck a dirty bomb in already), but I did read about the Cuban Missle crisis.

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