European Hand-wringing Over Trump and the State of European Defense

Zeit is in many ways an annoying organization, but it is one of the few German publications/media companies that translates some of their stuff into English. And even though they are annoying, it is still worth reading some of what they have to say. Transatlantic relations: Yankee Goes Home | ZEIT ONLINE

Europe has benefited from the relationship with America, mostly – though not completely – through our defense of them during the Cold War. At first there was no choice, but later, it was more habit. That, and they found it nice to let us pay for the defense while they spent their money on more profitable things.

Behind all Trump’s attacks against NATO, the European Union and free trade lurks the suspicion that for a long time the United States profited less from these arrangements than the freeloaders on the other side of the ocean.

And unfortunately there’s something to that. It’s been clear to European governments for some time that they have to spend more on defense.

The NATO Alliance calls on member states to spend a minimum of 2 percent of their GDP on defense. Germany – probably the strongest European country economically speaking – spends about 1.2 percent. Less, proportionally, than Albania. The result isn’t hard to predict: A military that could not defend its country if called upon to do so. Germany forced to resort to run-down and outdated military that experts say couldn’t win World War I let alone a modern war

He cites many examples, including the Saxony-based 371st tank battalion – a so-called “spearhead” unit of Nato’s Response Force.

In recent years it has had to beg and borrow 15,000 pieces of equipment from 56 other army units just to stay up to speed.

Meanwhile the 345th artillery training battalion is officially supposed to have 24 armoured artillery vehicles at its disposal.

But the reality is it has just seven, and all are on standby for Nato, meaning the unit has not carried out a single training exercise for three years.

A build up won’t happen overnight, especially not with Angela Merkel’s government still in power. They are hoping this issue goes away, and that America could just go back to footing the bill. No questions asked.

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