Under-equipped German soldiers replace guns with broomsticks during NATO exercise

With Germany's military as ill-equipped as it is, the crucial policy of deterrence that NATO might exercise to prevent continuous Russian encroachment in the Ukraine may fail.

February 22, 2015 15:08
2 minute read.

A view of the German Bundestag. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The German army was put in an awkward situation last week when it was discovered that soldiers belonging to a special joint NATO task force tried to pass broom sticks off as machine guns, The Washington Post reported, citing a German broadcaster as saying.

On Tuesday,  the German broadcaster  revealed details of a confidential army report showing that last year, during a NATO exercise, soldiers, lacking the appropriate hardware, painted broom sticks black and affixed them to their vehicles in an attempt to appear fully equipped.

The strange incident was made more bizarre because the vehicles taking part in the exercise were not supposed to be armed in the first place, begging the question of why the decision to use the broom sticks was even taken.

An official from Germany's Defense Ministry affirmed that the substitution of lumber for working firearms was not a common practice, adding that the logic of the soldiers involved was "hard to comprehend."

In 2013, Germany was ranked as the world's third largest arms exporter, though the country's own politicians are often reluctant or opposed to investing in the industry. That same year the Federal Republic of Germany spent only 1.3 percent of its GDP on defense, clocking in at well below the average of other NATO members in Europe.

Beyond a general ambivalence toward rearming its armed forces, promises by Germany's Defense Minister, Ursula vond der Leyen, to upgrade and repair critical military assets have also gone unfulfilled, adding urgency to previous reports ,such as one suggesting that out of 89 fighter-jets in the German Air-force, only 38 were tactically operable.

The condition of Germany's military is critical given the current situation in the Ukraine.

In case of a full-scale war between Kiev and Moscow, attempts at an armed intervention by NATO would be in part spearheaded by the German forces involved in the broom stick debaccle last year. That unit suffers a wide range of deficits. Forty percent of its soldiers lack standard issued P8 pistols while 30% lack access to vital  MG3 machine guns. Strategic  nighttime operations would be also hindered due to a massive 76% dearth in the availability of night-vision technology.

For the Ukraine, NATO membership is an issue high up on the priority list, viewed as a strong bulwark against total Russian dominance, a reality becoming truer and truer with every town lost to pro-Moscow separatists in the country's east. With Germany's military as ill-equipped as it is, the crucial policy of deterrence that the Ukraine covets and that NATO might exercise as a way to prevent continuous Russian encroachment in the Ukraine, as well as elsewhere in eastern Europe, may suffer a complete failure.


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