Although Germany has been the strongest Western European country economically for years, its army is suffering from a paucity of funding and arms, so much so that last year, soldiers in an elite unit substituted broomsticks for machine guns on the top of armored vehicles during a NATO exercise.
German broadcaster ARD divulged on Tuesday that it had secured a confidential army report delineating how the soldiers, who were part of a joint NATO task force that would respond first in the event of an attack, painted the broomsticks black, then quickly attached them to the armored vehicles.
A defense ministry spokesperson said the actions of the soldiers were “hard to comprehend.” The ministry insisted that the vehicles were not supposed to be armed.
The ARD report also revealed that over 40% of the task force’s soldiers lack P8 pistols, over 30% did not have general-purpose machine guns, and 76% had no night viewers.
The Washington Post reported that only one Germany’s four submarines is operational; 70 of its 180 GTK Boxer armored vehicles are ready for use, and seven of the Navy’s fl43 helicopters can be used effectively.
Germany ranked third in the world in arms exports in 2013, but that year spent a paltry 1.3% of its GDP on defense, a figure that is less than the European average.
Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, responding last year to a public disclosure admitting that only 38 of the country’s 89 German fighter jets were ready for use, and many helicopters were damaged, promised an upgrade, but that has not happened, according to army members.
Reuters reported that von der Leyen said on Tuesday that Germany needed to stay aware of the Kremlin’s attempt “to establish geo-strategic power politics and military force as a form of asserting their interests.” She also stated Germany would overhaul its security strategy.