The German government distorts the ambitions of the special fund of the Bundeswehr and the Zeitenwende in the new budget law 2024, threatening the effective reconstruction of the German armies.
Speaking to the Bundestag on February 27, 2022, three days after the start of the Russian offensive against Ukraine, Chancellor Olaf Scholz presented an ambitious initiative intended to allow the Bundeswehr to make up for its short-term capability shortcomings. Subsequently called Zeitenwende-Rede (Speech on a Change of Epochs), it was based on two key measures.
Thus, a budget envelope of €100 billion for immediate release should allow the German armies to initiate a set of programs in 2022 to address the most critical short-term shortcomings, resulting from 20 years of critical underinvestment in the German defense effort.
The second measure, often ignored, but just as critical, planned to quickly bring the Bundeswehr budget “beyond 2%” of German GDP, in accordance with the commitments made by the German authorities in 2014 at the summit of the Cardiff NATO.
The combined action of these two measures should make it possible to quickly and sustainably transform a bloodless Bundeswehr, incapable at that moment of deploying in 30 days more than a motorized battalion, a few combat aircraft and a handful of frigates and corvettes, to respond to a Russian threat for example, as the Bundeswehr Chief of Staff rightly pointed out in the aftermath of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, to the great dismay of German public opinion, and a large part of its political class.
Since then, unfortunately, things have changed a lot, and what was to constitute the pillar of the increase in power of the German armies in Europe in the face of the Russian threat, has gradually transformed into an immense political-budgetary imbroglio far removed from the initially stated ambitions.
A Zeitenwende (change of times) increasingly difficult to perceive
During the 2010s, and more particularly after having made the commitment in 2014, like all NATO countries, to devote 2% of its GDP to its defense, the primary characteristic of the German authorities in this area was to know how to give excuses to justify his non-compliance.
It is true that at that time, Berlin was far from being the only capital to show contortionism to distance itself from this commitment, while in 2020, only 5 European countries actually spent more than 2% of their GDP for their defense, and that a number of European chancelleries had already made it known that they did not intend to respect this objective for 2025.
This is unfortunately precisely what we have witnessed in recent days regarding the German defense effort within the framework of the 2024 budget bill , which has largely amended the initial bill dating from 2022 in this area. .
Thus, where the initial law planned to achieve a German defense effort of 2% of GDP by 2022, the new law excludes the years 2022 and 2023 from these objectives, thereby depriving the Bundeswehr of €20 billion. of credits which should have been allocated to it retroactively.
To achieve this objective in 2024, investments from the €100 billion envelope are now directly integrated into the German defense effort, in direct contradiction with the initial objectives, especially since this mechanism will be used until exhaustion of this credit line.
Once this deadline is reached, i.e. in 2027, the new budget law provides that the German defense effort will be maintained at a level of 2% of GDP, by increasing the budget of the Bundeswehr, without however giving the financing arrangements for the The massive increase that will be necessary to achieve this objective in 2028, knowing that it is very unlikely that the ruling coalition will last until that date.
Finally, where the envelope of €100 billion was specifically to be earmarked for budgetary acquisition programs supervised individually, this sees, in the new text of the law, its scope considerably enlarged, while the obligation made to manage acquisition programs individually within a fixed envelope, has disappeared.
In other words, the two key measures of the Zeitenwende-Rede of February 27, 2022, were merged into a single initiative that has also become opaque, which will be used well beyond the scope initially planned, while the structural budget deficits of the Bundeswehr coming seriously handicap its operational capabilities, were disguised for several years, without any solution having actually been provided.
Reconstruction of the Bundeswehr under threat
The first victims of this budgetary engineering implemented by the German government are none other than the German armies. They will not be able to use the entirety of the special fund to fill their gaps, as it will be used in a broader manner, in particular to support political-industrial ambitions, as is the case concerning the acquisition of anti-ballistic systems . Israeli Arrow 3 to support the European Sky Shield initiative , while they are specialized to respond to a non-existent threat in Russia.
In addition, the increase in the annual budget of the armies having integrated the special fund, they do not have the necessary means to overcome their structural handicaps, particularly with regard to the organization and financing of their stocks of spare parts and ammunition.
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