We Need to Talk About Germany

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Let’s face it, the last couple of months have exposed Germany to a lot of criticism as a European defence partner.

Before we even get into gas and Roubles, Nordstream 2 and the oft-reported apparent wholesale purchase of the German elite by Russia, we have to recognise that Germany has spent a much lower percentage of GDP on defence than many others (1.53% in 2021) and yet continues to benefit from defence exports to many nations that do spend.

The oft used saying ‘Waffen bringen kein Frieden’ (“Weapons don’t bring peace”) is fair enough I guess, but that does not prevent Germany from being the world’s fourth-largest defence exporter. Yes, I appreciate all the historical reasons but the blunt reality is the German economy benefits from other nations spending more on European defence than it does.

The conflict in Ukraine has opened Germany up to intense criticism; helmets and dangerous missiles, yes, no and maybe seemingly every day, confusion and vacillation, then being dragged kicking and screaming into providing materially useful support and increasing defence spending.

This is on top of actually selling defence material to Russia since the 2014 invasion of Crimea.

Do we continue to reward this behaviour?

If you are the British Army, seems so.

For the third time, the UK MoD Robotic Platoon Vehicle (RPV) programme has elected to work with Rheinmetall, selecting the company’s Mission Master SP UGV for the third and final phase of the programme. The British Army has ordered four Mission Master SP in an ISTAR configuration and three equipped for cargo tasks. In previous phases of the programme, eight vehicles had been procured. The new order, placed in January, will be completely delivered by August

With MAN trucks, CR3 and Boxer, the British Army is heavily exposed to the German defence sector.

Horstman and WFEL have also recently been purchased by Renk and KMW respectively, and of course, RBSL.

All that said, this isn’t really about Germany, it is about risk.

We should avoid reliance on or over-exposure to any one nation for our defence equipment, it is just prudent risk management.

The recently published Land Industrial Strategy has this to say

It will ensure the Army receives the capabilities it requires, but in a way that drives opportunity for UK industry and the economy. It recognised the growing importance of operational independence in the Land sector, as well as the social value that investment here can bring to the UK.

A couple of the objectives are

Recognition of the importance of maintaining operational independence and resilience, including a greater role for UK supply chains; and

The need to support our industrial base, including SMEs, and commit to more stable, predictable, and visible acquisition and investment pipelines

Let’s hope this strategy looks at the overreliance on the German defence sector.

None of this is about being critical of Germany, we should not blame them or even criticise them, but we have to operate in a world of reality and act accordingly, and spread our finite jam over multiple partners.

NOTE:

At the risk of repeating myself, this is not a criticism of Germany per se, Germany acts in its own interests in response to the wishes of its people. We might wish for more, but it is none of our business. All I want is for the UK to both avoid over-reliance on any single partner and do like France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and many others do, prioritise their own industries. 

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