Europe's armies are dysfunctional

The situation is much as it was when Hitler came to power.

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Giulio Meotti,

giulio meott
giulio meott
צילום: עצמי

In 1958, a well-known American writer who was conducting an investigation about Europe, Joseph Alsop, asked the pacifist Lord Russell: “What if the Soviets won’t be induced, in any way, to an agreement for nuclear disarmament?”. “In this case - said the Nobel Prize Laureate Russell - I would be personally in favor of unilateral disarmament”. Fifty years later, Lord Russell got his wish. Europe is disarming.

The German weekly magazine Der Spiegel recently published an article entitled: “The unarmed forces of Germany”. “Forget the Wehrmacht, Germany may soon gave no army at all”, added The Guardian. "The inglorious Bundeswehr” wrote Politico. “Do not shoot, please, we’re German”, summarized The Economist. So while late German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, was promising to make Germany a “leader of peace and disarmament”, the American media reported that German soldiers could not even shoot in Afghanistan.

“An unarmed Europe will face the world alone”, wrote Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times.

In 1970, Mogens Glistrup, a prominent politician in Denmark, became famous for suggesting that his country had to replace the armed forces with a recorded message in Russian: “We surrender”. Since 2008, in response to the economic crisis, most European countries have cut defense spending by 10-15 percent. Most Atlantic alliance members have demobilized: Germany went from 545,000 soldiers in 1990 to 180,000, France from 548,000 to 213,000.

A comparison with Putin’s Russia? An increase of 79 percent in military spending in a decade.

The Royal Air Force now has only a quarter of the number of aircraft it had in 1970. The British Army is expected to be reduced to 82,000 soldiers, the minimum since the Napoleonic wars. In 1990 Britain had 27 submarines (excluding those carrying ballistic missiles) and France had 17. The two countries now have seven and six, respectively. And consider that Britain and France are commonly regarded as the only two European countries that still take defense seriously.

Spain today allocates less than 1 percent of GDP to military budget. 75 percent of the Belgian military spending goes to pay army pensions. Many of today’s NATO forces are poorly equipped because much of the money is spent on salaries and benefits. While the United States spends 36 percent of its defense budget on pay and benefits, the majority of NATO members in Europe spend an average of nearly 65 percent.

The NATO Secretary General George Robertson told the truth at the World Economic Forum: “The problem in Europe is that there are too many people in uniform and too few of them are able to go into action”. Belgium, for example, employs hundreds of military barbers, musicians and other useless staff but does not have the money to replace its helicopters. A former spokesman for the Belgian Minister of Defense Andre Flahaut, said it frankly: “I’m not sure that the mission of the military is to fight”.

Fed up with what he had seen, Joseph Ralston, former NATO supreme commander for Europe, defined European armies “fat and redundant”. In 2011, the first military campaign in Libya not guided by the Americans had already demonstrated the limits of European military power. It is no coincidence that this week the Libyan government has turned to the United States to bomb the positions of the Islamic State. While all 28 NATO nations in 2011 approved the Libya mission, less than half participated. “The military capabilities simply are not there”, said the former head of the Pentagon, Robert Gates.

Twenty years ago, at the end of the Cold War, European Allies were contributing one third of the costs for NATO. Today it is only twenty percent.

The Netherlands now invests in defense just 1.15 percent of its gross national product, so that Rob de Wijk, a Dutch defense counsel, told the parliament of the Netherlands that the Dutch are “international freeriders”.

On 11 March 2004, 192 people were killed in a series of terrorist attacks in Madrid. Three days later, the Spanish Socialist leader, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, was elected prime minister. Just 24 hours after the oath, Zapatero ordered the Spanish troops to leave Iraq “as soon as possible”. A monumental victory for radical Islam. Since then, Europe has deployed its boots on the ground not to fight jihadism abroad, such as Isis, but within European countries to protect monuments and civilians.


11,000 Italian soldiers are currently engaged in various military missions and more than half of them are used in the operation “Safe Streets” in Italian cities.
The current “Opération Sentinels” is the first large-scale military operation within France. For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the number of French soldiers actively deployed in metropolitan France matches those used in overseas operations. There is another worrying fact: of all French soldiers currently engaged in military operations, half of them are deployed on the French roads. Half.

The same figure in Italy: 11,000 Italian soldiers are currently engaged in various military missions and more than half of them are used in the operation “Safe Streets” in Italian cities.

US anti-terrorism officials are so frustrated with the inability of Belgium to face terrorist cells that they compared its security forces to “children”. Until a couple of decades ago, Sweden was militarily strong. Then, a number of decisions based on the belief that wars in Europe were “a thing of the past”, turned Sweden into a defenseless state. According to the Supreme Commander of Sweden, Sverker Göransson, the country is able, at best, to defend itself “in one place for a week”.

At a meeting in Washington with NATO officials and security experts, Robert Gates said that “the pacification of Europe” had gone too far. An example? While the Ukrainian troops were fighting the pro-Russian separatists on the eastern borders of Europe, a German battalion took part in a NATO exercise in Norway. They had no weapons, but the German army, the Bundeswehr, thought well and decided to give the soldiers some broomsticks to be used it as a weapon. The Bundeswehr has helicopters that can not fly, and tanks that can not shoot. And the soldiers will be decreased from 250,000 to 180,000.

Konstantin Richter of Die Zeit compared the German army to “a sort of Doctors Without Borders with guns”. The definition could be applied to the majority of European armies.

A year ago, Sir Nigel Essenhigh, former head of the Royal Navy, wrote an article in which he compared England’s defense today to that during the rise of Nazism. Which part of the continent will Europe’s leaders sacrifice to the Islamic State and jihadists as their grandfathers did with Sudetenland to Hitler? The French Islamicized suburbs? Londonistan?








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