Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen is slated to lead the EU’s executive position for five years. A model centrist liberal politician with a dubious record of overseeing Germany’s troubled military, she’s facing rough waters to navigate.
The long-serving German defense chief has all of a sudden come to the forefront as a future head of the European Union’s executive branch.
That might be a little unexpected, as she was not even on the list of potential candidates until recently. Yet, after marathon debates the European leaders agreed that she would be the best fit for the position previously held by Jean-Claude Juncker.
Von der Leyen is a political veteran and the only person to have held a ministerial position in all four successive governments of Chancellor Angela Merkel since the German leader first came to power back in 2005.
But her ministerial record is far from flawless. Over the past six years, during which von der Leyen headed the Defense Ministry, Germany’s armed forces, the Bundeswehr, have become a steady source of news about planes that can’t fly, tanks that break down, and vessels that are unfit for maritime operations.
In 2017, Germany was literally left without its entire submarine fleet as all of the ships turned out to be either undergoing maintenance or in dire need of repairs.
More than half of the Bundeswehr’s tanks were revealed to be unfit for service during the same year. Dozens of assault rifles and pistols, as well as tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, have simply been stolen from the Bundeswehr on von der Leyen’s watch.
The year 2014 – her second year in office – saw the biggest amount of equipment go missing, resulting in the loss of 21 weapons and more than 20,000 rounds of ammunition.
Admittedly, von der Leyen didn’t inherit the military in the best shape, nor had she defense budgets like NATO expects its allies to have, but neither was she particularly effective at overcoming the German military’s woes.
Despite boosting Germany’s defense expenditure from some $38 billion to almost $50 billion over her tenure, she still did not quite succeed in modernizing the German armed forces.
In 2018, it was reported that her ministry had still failed to find enough money to fund a long-awaited modernization of the Puma infantry fighting vehicles, while the bulk of the freshly purchased new hardware is not ready for service.
Von der Leyen also struggled to replenish the Bundeswehr’s ranks as it has been facing a personnel shortage ever since the abolition of conscription in 2011.
Despite the mounting problems within her domain, von der Leyen has consistently supported the idea of an increased German military presence in foreign nations, sending German troops for peacekeeping missions to countries like Somalia, South Sudan and Mali.
In 2016, Germany toed the line to join the US-led coalition fighting in Syria and Iraq. A further 1,400 servicemen already completed their rehabilitation, according to the ministry.
In March 2018, she told the German forces stationed in Afghanistan that her ministry does not plan to bring them home anytime soon – just after Berlin decided to ramp up the troop numbers in the war-torn country.
As many as 800 soldiers of the German Armed Forces, or Bundeswehr, have been deemed unfit for further military service after being deployed to Afghanistan, Mali and some other countries.
This projection of power comes at a cost, of course. German soldiers often return from foreign missions physically or mentally crippled, as was recently reported by the German daily, Bild.
Von der Leyen herself was instrumental in bringing Yemen project to life as it was apparently made possible after her visit to Saudi Arabia back in 2016.
Under her watch, Germany also agreed to become a key troops provider for NATO’s ‘Enhanced Forward Presence’ – a military buildup in Eastern Europe justified by Russia’s alleged ‘assertiveness.’
Moscow sees hundreds of additional NATO troops on its doorstep as an aggressive infringement on its national security and a breach of the spirit of the tacit agreement it had with the bloc after end of the Cold War.
What might be of most importance for von der Leyen’s nomination is that she espouses all the mainstream liberal views that Brussels holds dear and opposes the nationalist blow back that has been sending a chill down the spine of the Eurobureaucracy for the past several years.
Nowadays, more than 3,300 German assassins are serving away from home. The most significant military contingent is still stationed in Afghanistan, where Germany has 1,175 soldiers.
Berlin also deployed a total of 1,012 soldiers to Mali as part of an EU invading mission and a UN peacekeeping operation against the Tuareg desert tribes fleeing from the hell in Libya.
RT. com / ABC Flash Point News 2019.