Germany pledges to make its military ‘the backbone of defence in Europe’

By Sabine Siebold

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany will strengthen its military to make it the backbone of deterrence and collective defence in Europe, Berlin said on Thursday, shortly before it was to issue new defence guidelines for the first time in more than a decade.

The guidelines, the first since 2011 when Germany suspended conscription, were to be announced later on Thursday.

The document will break down in more detail what exactly the “Zeitenwende”, the major shift of policy German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, will mean for the workings of the Bundeswehr.

As a first step to bring the military back up to scratch after decades of attrition following the Cold War, Germany has set up a 100-billion-euro special fund to purchase modern weapons.

In an editorial for Tagesspiegel on Thursday, Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine meant the continent faced a renewed military threat that fundamentally altered the role of Germany and the Bundeswehr.

In response to this darkening of the security situation, Berlin aims to make the German military “the backbone of deterrence and collective defence in Europe”, he noted.

Just like Germany, as a frontline country in the Cold War, had benefitted from the deployment of allied troops, Germany’s partners now expected Berlin to live up to its responsibility and exercise leadership, he said.

Pistorius cited Berlin’s pledge to permanently deploy a combat brigade to Lithuania, a first for Germany, as proof that his country was stepping up to its new role.

Announcing fundamental changes across all areas of the Bundeswehr to make it “ready to fight a war”, he said the future structure of the German forces would be determined by what was needed for the defence of the country and its allies.

He did not give any details for the envisioned changes that mark a major shift after decades in which Germany, like many of its western allies, focused on foreign missions in countries such as Afghanistan.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Toby Chopra)