About a year ago, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) announced a “turning point”: 100 billion euros are to be invested in the Bundeswehr. However, the military commissioner Eva Högl (SPD) recently gave the government a bad report: “The Bundeswehr has too little of everything, and it has had even less since February 24, 2022,” said Högl on Tuesday at the presentation of her annual report. A “strength” is also required from the staff.

So what about the “turning point”? The SPD politician and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ralf Stegner, and the former Federal Minister of the Interior, Gerhart Baum (FDP), discussed this question on Sunday evening on the ARD talk show with Anne Will. Also invited were André Wüstner, Colonel of the German Armed Forces and Chairman of the German Armed Forces Association, Nicole Deitelhoff, a political scientist and head of the Leibniz Institute Hessian Foundation for Peace and Conflict Research in Frankfurt am Main, and Hedwig Richter, Professor of History at the University of the Bundeswehr Munich.

André Wüstner made it clear at the beginning of the program: “What the military commissioner says is a catastrophic testimony for the governing coalition after more than a year of war in Europe.” He accused the government of lacking political will with regard to the Bundeswehr miss. At least since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, it has been pointed out that the Bundeswehr needs support – but: “People didn’t want to see it. That was a fatal mistake.”

Wüstner also criticized the lack of knowledge about the structure of the special fund for the Bundeswehr: “Everyone talks about the special fund like the blind talk about the color. What drives me crazy is how many people in parliament I have to explain to what they themselves have agreed to.” Many politicians do not even understand exactly what the money is being used for, the colonel said.

The shortcomings in the Bundeswehr are mainly due to the fact that the procedures took too long. Wüstner made this clear using the example of the self-propelled howitzers, the delivery of which to the Ukraine had been decided last year. The budget committee should only decide on the replacement purchase this month. “It falls short to just blame the Bundeswehr,” said Wüstner. “The procurement system in Koblenz, the Federal Ministry of Defence, the other ministries and Parliament – everyone is obliged to advance this turning point.”

The historian Hedwig Richter also voiced clear criticism. The federal government only looks at surveys when it comes to its armaments policy and failed to invest in the Bundeswehr and in a “future-oriented energy policy” as early as 2014. “Democracy is not polling. The point is that politicians really should have acted by 2014 at the latest,” complained Richter.

It was a mistake not to have distanced oneself from Russia in 2014, admitted SPD member of the Bundestag Ralf Stegner. However, mistakes in Russia policy would now be corrected: “You don’t have to say that the policy doesn’t work – it works very well!” said Stegner. “The gas storage tanks were empty a year ago – now they’re full!”

In general, Stegner was annoyed by the accusation that politicians had long been warned about Putin: “Always these nine-times smart people who now say they all knew it before. One thing has to be said: the traffic light coalition made the special fund and the decision to support Ukraine.” In addition, according to Stegner, the defense ministers of the past 16 years were not Social Democrats but Christian Democrats.

The political scientist Nicole Deitelhoff and the FDP politician Gerhart Baum attributed shortcomings in defense policy primarily to a typically German mentality. “Staying out is the German special way,” said Baum. Deitelhoff added that it was assumed that defense was something “subordinate” and that the German way was that of a civilian power. The war in Ukraine has now shaken things up, “but it will take time for this attitude to change,” says Deitelhoff.

In this context, Ralf Stegner referred to the history of National Socialism in Germany: “Less than a hundred years ago we devastated half of Europe and caused the Holocaust. The fact that it takes a while before the military plays a role again, that’s the way it is.” The FDP politician Baum replied: “How were we actually liberated? When other states took up arms – that’s basically proof that sometimes you can’t do without guns.”

Procurement problems, a lack of material and a lack of ammunition – the Bundeswehr is apparently in a desolate state. “What else has to happen for politicians to hear the shot?” asks the chairman of the Bundeswehr Association, André Wüstner.

Source: WELT / André Wüstner

Bundeswehr Colonel André Wüstner also made it clear: “As early as 2015, 70 years after the Second World War, it was clear that our history should no longer be the excuse for not doing justice to our role in the world.” That is why leadership is needed now take over – and above all agree in the coalition on what leadership means.

Wüstner once again referred to the special fund, which he believes reflects leadership and responsibility: “The special fund has credibility internally, with a view to the industry, but also in the alliance,” he said. “If you lose sight of that, then that’s it,” summed up the chairman of the Bundeswehr Association.

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