Exclusive Defense Minister Asks for €130 Billion Boost in German Military Spending

Germany’s defense minister on Tuesday asked a Bundestag parliamentary committee to approve an extra €130 billion ($140 billion) in military spending over 15 years to modernize the nation’s battle readiness and boost staffing. Ursula von der Leyen said Germany’s military is underfunded and lacks the ability to participate in international operation and NATO missions. The country currently spends about €35 billion a year on the Bundeswehr, less than the 2 percent of GDP recommended by members in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The increase requested by Ms. von der Leyen, if approved, would amount to roughly an extra €8.7 billion a year in military spending, a boost based on 2016 spending levels of about 25 percent. “The military forces are tired,” said Hans-Peter Bartels, a parliamentary commissioner responsible for the German armed forces, after the committee meeting. “There are too many things missing. Training and exercises cannot take place because we lend vehicles, arms and night vision goggles to other associations. Our motivation is suffering.” German has 93 Tornado military fighter jets, but only 40 are operational, Mr. Bartels said. Only five of 40 military transport helicopters are operational, as are only four of 22 Sea Lynx helicopters used by the German Navy. Europe’s largest economy generated a budget surplus of €21.1 billion in the first six months of 2015, its largest in 15 years, according to the Federal Statistical office. Last month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a Bundestag committee that Germany needed to spend more on its military in light of increasing terrorism and other instability in Europe. German government ministries and their leaders are jockeying to get a portion of the additional tax revenue. Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel yesterday said Germany should spend €600 billion on infrastructure, research, education and other measures through 2025. He heads the Social Democrats, the junior partner in Ms. Merkel’s political coalition and is her likely political challenger in 2017.