‘Troops don’t solve conflicts’: German opposition slams govt report on $25bn army deployments

‘Troops don’t solve conflicts’: German opposition slams govt report on $25bn army deployments
Germany spent roughly €21 billion ($25 billion) for 52 overseas deployments in the past decades, losing 108 soldiers, the defense ministry said, amid calls from top German officials to not engage in an arms race pushed by US President Donald Trump.

Responding to a request for information from Germany’s Left Party (Die Linke), the defense ministry said around 410,000 troops have deployed overseas in 52 international missions since 1991, according to DPA news agency, which obtained the papers.

The missions cost €21 billion in taxpayer money altogether – more than previously thought, the Frankfurter Allgemeine (FAZ) reports. 

Along with the enormous price tag, the incalculable human cost includes 108 troops losing their lives, with 37 of them killed in action, according to Spiegel and FAZ.

“The [German military’s] foreign missions not only cost a fortune – many soldiers have paid for it with their lives. This is particularly painful because normally no armed conflict [is] resolved through military deployment,” Sabine Zimmermann, deputy chairman of the Left Party faction, stated.

The Bundeswehr, founded in 1955 by the then-West German government, has to return to its roots and become a “defense force” again, withdrawing from overseas missions the MP argued, adding, “Weapons exports must be prohibited.” 

The news comes as a number of key politicians call for a major overhaul of German military policy. Martin Schulz, whose Social Democratic party is gearing up to challenge Angela Merkel in the upcoming 2017 general election, blasted the chancellor for her plan to increase military spending – a demand Donald Trump has repeatedly made to Washington’s NATO allies.

Schulz suggested on Wednesday that the money allocated for defense spending to meet the two percent of GDP be invested in education and welfare.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has also expressed unease over the massive armament programs, writing in an op-ed last week that Berlin must not “kneel” before Washington’s pressure on military spending. He insisted that Germany free itself of “the devilish logic saying that security is to be reached through armament.”

Germany currently spends around €37 billion (US$43.6 billion) on defense, or 1.2 percent of GDP. Meeting the two-percent target means the country’s defense expenditures could double. Schulz and Thomas Oppermann – another SPD top official – said in an opinion piece that the goal is not only unrealistic, but would not sit well with people, given Germany’s history.

The two maintained that if defense spending were doubled, Germany would become Europe’s largest military power, which they say “nobody would want – just because of our past. It makes no sense for the future either.”

Defense budget aside, it emerged that multiple reliability issues have badly damaged German military’s capabilities. In January, the Augsburger Allegmaine newspaper reported that almost half of the 225 battle tanks in the German Army were in urgent need of modernization, only 38 of Germany’s 89 Tornado jets were combat ready, and only 25 of 57 transport airplanes were operational, according to a report by Deutsche Welle.

Die Welt reported that the armored vehicles which the Bundeswehr deployed to Mali as part of a UN mission were taken out of operation due to “dust” and “rocky roads.” The German Air Force’s Tiger attack helicopters stationed in Mali were also grounded for some time due to extreme heat exceeding 43C (109F), while the average daytime temperature there exceeds 44-45C.

In late July, the air force lost its first Tiger deployed to Mali. The aircraft began losing parts – including main rotor blades – ten seconds before crashing into the desert, according to Reuters, citing a military investigation.