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German army personnel have also been reduced from 220,000 to 185,000. At the end of the Cold War, West Germany alone had about 500,000 well-trained troops and East Germany another 240,000, some of whom were taken into the Bundeswehr after reunification. Germany also suspended the draft last July 1, but this was a desired measure, since the Bundeswehr wants to build a professional army.
The recession and the Cold War’s end have had much to do with the announced cuts. The German army is reorienting its mission from a tank-heavy force trained for combat against the Warsaw Pact into mainly a peace-keeping operation. But this does not account for the fact the training and quality of Germany’s military personnel have deteriorated sharply, while the armed forces have been transformed into a government employment project.
A 2009 report, composed by generals and officers and made public recently in a German newspaper, stated that German soldiers in Afghanistan were insufficiently trained and lacked both proper equipment and discipline, all of which could cause their mission to fail. Above all, the report criticised the soldiers’ training, indicating they could not even serve their own weapons or drive the armoured vehicles properly.
“The training situation of the soldiers in personal weapons and shooting control does not correspond to some extent to the demands in the country of operations,” the report read. “The soldiers generally are not mastering their weapons.”
Three years ago another report was released that stated Germany’s soldiers were simply physically unfit. The report stated that “40 percent of the troops were overweight, compared to 35 percent for their civilian counterparts (of the same age and gender).” The report also claimed German soldiers smoked more and exercised less than civilians.
“It’s not just a German problem,” wrote one military analyst. “The basic problem with European military organizations is that most of them are basically make-work projects. It’s long been known that many European soldiers are not really fit for action. They are uniformed civil servants.”
The analyst excludes from his criticism British troops who “are capable of going into action.” But he further claims European soldiers generally lack equipment and training because they are expensive.
“A disproportionate amount of money is spent on payroll. That keeps the unemployment rate down more effectively than buying needed equipment, or paying for the fuel needed to support training.”
The German army has developed into such a civil service-style bureaucracy that every combat soldier is supported by 35 other soldiers and 15 civilian workers. In the other European Union countries, the average is 16 soldiers and four civilians. It is no wonder the report called the German army “extremely inefficient” in comparison to other European armies.
So while Germany is making wonderful weapons for export, its own military is rotting from within. A major reason for the lack of concern regarding this shameful situation is that the Europeans know they could always rely on a powerful US military. But with an ailing American economy, this is now not the case, as Libya has shown. So with the Middle East and parts of Africa in a turbulent, unpredictable state, where another Rwanda could suddenly appear, America must push the Europeans for better and more combat training and weapons for their troops, so that they can fulfill their missions. Being small and clumsy is generally never good when one goes into a fight.
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