Germany’s “War-Readiness” Is a Boon for the U.S. Defense Industry

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius’ two-day visit to the United States May 9-10 was above all a shopping spree for U.S.-made military equipment. Among his purchases were three complete units of HIMARS long-range missile launchers to be shipped to Ukraine, as well as 60 twin-engine “Chinook” transport helicopters, produced at a Philadelphia Boeing helicopter factory which Pistorius visited May 9. Both deals are to be financed by the “special fund” for the German armed forces of €100 billion. Of that sum, fully one-third will be spent on F-35 fighter aircraft, despite the doubts about them voiced by German military experts, who find them too costly and not really efficient in battlefield situations in Europe.

Rather than waiting for the German defense industry to gear up its own production, which will take a few years, the Defense Minister prefers to shop for already-existing military hardware, in keeping with his viewpoint (which has earned him the nickname “Minister of Offense”) that Russia will attempt to attack NATO in 2026, if not already in 2025. Therefore, Germany has to be made “war-ready” in time. That includes a doubling of direct German military aid to Ukraine, scheduled to go from €4 bn to €8 bn in 2024, in addition to the planned stationing of a heavy combat brigade in Lithuania near the latter’s border with Russia, and the building of an ammunition production factory on Ukrainian territory. None of that will shift the military balance, but it will certainly push Germany deeper into direct confrontation with Russia.

And if this militarization drive at the expense of the German taxpayer were not scandalous enough, Pistorius unashamedly emphasized during his US trip the economic benefits the German turnaround will bring for the U.S. “We currently have around 380 contracts with U.S. defense companies alone with a total value of around $23 billion,” he said. It seems Pistorius is listening to those defense “experts” in Germany who believe that, because such defense contracts secure American jobs, they will facilitate German cooperation with a potential Trump Administration from 2025 on.

Note that the defense budget and military support for Ukraine are both excluded from the government’s attempt to cut all other items in the 2024 fiscal budget. However, the austerity fanatics in Berlin seem to overlook the fact that the country’s infrastructure, notably in the transport sector, is certainly not “war-ready”. Thousands of highway and railroad bridges and thousands of kilometers of railroad tracks are in urgent need of repair, or even complete replacement.

This has just been documented in the reply of the Transport Ministry to a query by Bundestag member Sahra Wagenknecht. For the period 2021-2022, the most recent overview available, 7,112 km of highways were in need of repair, a substantial increase from the 5797 km of 2017-2021. For railroad tracks, the increase over the same period was not as high, 17,636 km to 17,529, but the condition of railroad bridges worsened considerably, with a list of total replacements needed rising from 1,089 to 1,160, and 8,000 bridges to be repaired.

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