The mass-scale failure of a German infantry fighting vehicle is raising new questions about Germany’s role in the NATO alliance.
All 18 units of the Puma infantry fighting vehicle used in a training drill broke down earlier this month, according to Politico.
The Puma is considered a primary vehicle of NATO’s Very High-Readiness Joint Task Force, according to Defense News. The drill in question was intended to prepare a German tank brigade for service in the formation.
Crews of the military vehicle were beset with electronic issues, “turret defects,” and other deficiencies that rendered every Puma inoperable in the exercise.
The German government is scrambling to substitute an older infantry fighting vehicle, the “1970’s-era Marder,” as the Puma’s manufacturer continues to troubleshoot problems, according to Politico.
Germany’s military, the Bundeswehr, is notoriously underfunded.
The country appears set to break a pledge to spend more than 2 percent of its yearly GDP on military spending made earlier this year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Politico. In fact, Germany may not hit that mark until at least 2025.
NATO member states are generally expected to spend that aforementioned 2 percent of its GDP on defense, under an agreement between members of the organization.
Germany doesn’t even come close. It spent a meager 1.3 percent of its GDP on its military in 2021, according to the World Bank.
The Bundeswehr briefly became an international laughingstock after a 2015 incident in which its personnel had to substitute broomsticks for machine guns in a training exercise — unable to afford or maintain the real weapons.
Germany’s position as the wealthiest economy in Europe (by far) hasn’t translated into real investment in its military.
The country’s refusal to meet its NATO obligations has become a point of contention for several American Presidents — most significantly former President Donald Trump.
Trump grilled NATO Secretary General Jens Stolenberg on Germany’s refusal to pay its share of defense spending in a heated 2018 meeting — as well as the country’s comfortable relationship with Russia.
Not every European member of NATO shirks their military funding obligations.
Poland is slated to raise its military spending to 3 percent of its GDP, and Polish soldiers fought with Americans in the Iraq War when they didn’t have to.
The United Kingdom, Greece, Romania and the Baltic States also meet the 2 percent threshold.
The latter three are small economies in Europe, by the way.
That Germany can’t even proportionally match the poorer members of the alliance in military funding raises serious concerns about their future in NATO.
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