About two weeks ago, the failure of some of the Bundeswehr’s newest Puma tanks caused an uproar. That is why Germany has now taken over the lead of NATO’s rapid deployment force with 50-year-old vehicles. The Union criticizes: Instead of clarifying the failures, Defense Minister Lambrecht took a Christmas vacation.

The Union in the Bundestag reprimands Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) for what she sees as the sluggish clarification of the recent failures of the Puma infantry fighting vehicle. “The holder of the command and command power seems to be more important than finally clearing up and cleaning up your own Christmas vacation,” said the defense policy spokesman for the Union faction, Florian Hahn (CSU), the “world”. “If you are wondering about current deficiencies in the Bundeswehr, you can say: the fish stinks from the head.” The minister broke her own promise to create transparency as soon as possible.

Two weeks ago it became known that 18 of the 42 tanks used during a firing exercise by the Bundeswehr for participation in the VJTF NATO intervention force had failed. The tracked vehicle, which was plagued by numerous technical problems, was only declared fit for combat in 2021. The armaments companies Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) then announced shortly before Christmas that they intended to repair the defective infantry fighting vehicle by mid-January at the latest.

Hahn asked the ministry for the current status and the results of an announced comprehensive assessment of the situation – without an answer, as he says. Hahn doubts that the industry is being blamed one-sidedly: “The minister was obviously completely wrong in the initial diagnosis.”

At the beginning of the year, Germany took over the leadership of NATO’s rapid reaction force. The so-called spearhead of the military alliance consists of around 11,500 land forces alone this year. The Bundeswehr provides about 8,000 men and women. Other forces come from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Slovenia.

The NATO spearhead, officially known as the VJTF (Very High Readiness Joint Task Force), was set up during the first major Ukraine crisis after 2014 and has since been a central element of the deterrence strategy against Russia. Their special feature is the high level of readiness. For example, the fastest forces must be ready in 48 to 72 hours to be deployed to wherever the Alliance needs them.

After numerous technical defects, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht announced that the German soldiers would not be provided with the Puma as a combat vehicle for the VJTF, but with the older Marder.

According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, however, the lack of equipment in the Bundeswehr does not pose a risk for the VJTF. “I am absolutely confident that Germany will be an excellent leading nation for the VJTF,” said the Norwegian at the turn of the year of the German Press Agency. He knows that the Bundeswehr has well-trained and well-equipped soldiers who can do the job very well.

In addition, Stoltenberg pointed out that the VJTF does not consist solely of German units. “Germany will be the leading nation, but there will be other nations participating in this force,” he emphasized. “I am absolutely certain that all nine nations that will be responsible for the NATO task force will meet the NATO requirements.”

Regarding the lack of equipment in the Bundeswehr, Stoltenberg said: “Certainly there are gaps and deficits.” That’s why he also welcomes the German commitment to make an extra 100 billion euros available and to further increase defense spending. In this way, the gaps and deficits could be closed.

The VJTF is currently part of the NATO crisis response force NRF (Nato Response Force), whose total strength was last given as around 40,000 soldiers. In addition to land forces, it also includes air and sea forces and special forces. In the future, the VJTF is expected to be part of a new force model. In view of the possible dangers posed by Russia, it provides for more than 300,000 soldiers to be kept on high readiness for crises in the future.

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