Germany’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen at a Defense Ministers’ summit in Estonia on September 7, criticized the upcoming Russian-Belarusian Zapad 2017 military exercises. She said that around 100,000 Russian soldiers will take part in the upcoming Zapad 2017 war games, despite Moscow’s claims that they will only have 12,700 participants and the exercise will not exceed the 2011 Vienna Document limits.
Moscow and Minsk also insist on defensive character of the exercise. Two countries that constitute the Union State of Russia and Belarus pre-declared intention to improve interoperability of staffs of different levels as well as interfacing of prospective troops and armament control systems in order to be prepared to react adequately to emerging threats.
The statement of Germany’s Minister of Defense fully contradicts these official sources and was likely made in order to divert attention from internal problems in the German Army and switch it to external factors.
Is Germany itself really ready to cope with rapidly changing geopolitical situation? This question should logically be addressed to the country’s Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen. According to the European commission’s report “Standard Eurobarometer 87”, trust in the German Army has significantly fallen. The level of trust is only 66%. This dubious achievement is on the conscience of the Minister.
Ursula von der Leyen has been taking this post since December 2013. Undoubtedly she recognized that her main goal was to make German Armed Forces stronger, instill confidence and relieve fears in German society. But permanent scandals associated with German Army have led to the opposite effect. First of all she has not managed to win respect among troops and civil society. Von der Leyen repeatedly harshly criticized national Armed Forces for military leadership failures, attitude problems and for tolerating rightwing extremists, as well as sexual abuse cases. “The Bundeswehr has an attitude problem, and they have weaknesses in leadership at different levels,” she said.
German soldiers in their turn reacted angrily, accusing her of collectively tarring them while failing to take responsibility herself.
The experts wonder why the head of Defense Ministry, instead of clarifying each incident and substantiating her accusations against the military leadership, on the contrary, spoils the relations between the Army and politicians. And they are really far from ideal. This opinion was expressed by the head of the Bundeswehr association, André Wüstner. Mr. Wüstner. He told the daily Augsburger Allgemeine: “Nobody can understand how a minister can cast such judgement on her own troops.”
Ms. von der Leyen realizes that there are so many problems accumulated in defense sphere that she has no choice but to act, even make unproven statements. Such behavior discredits the State. Providing false information the high-ranking official shows Berlin’s fear of Moscow that is absolutely obnoxiously for Germans. Perhaps she is very close to being the next to leave her post with scandal as many of her predecessors did.