Germany to place majority of army under NATO command – Pistorius

The defense minister also announced that Berlin has purchased three HIMARS rocket launcher systems for Ukraine

The majority of the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) will be under NATO command by 2025, with around 35,000 soldiers placed on the “highest levels of readiness,” Defense Minister Boris Pistorius announced during a keynote speech at Washington’s Johns Hopkins University on Thursday.

The announcement comes as Germany struggles to resolve major personnel and equipment shortages in its army, with many replacement items purchased for the Bundeswehr being sent to aid Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. A parliamentary report in March revealed that the army is also “aging and shrinking,” with 20,000 unfilled positions and a “very high” dropout rate.

“The security of our allies is our security. Therefore, by next year, the majority of the Bundeswehr will be placed under NATO command,” Pistorius said in his Thursday speech, adding that “approximately 35,000 of them will be at the two highest levels of readiness.”

The minister said Berlin’s focus remains on “protecting our allies on NATO’s eastern flank,” and pointed to Germany’s recent moves to increase its military presence in the region.

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Last month, Germany sent an advance team of soldiers to Lithuania as part of a plan to establish a full-strength armor brigade of 4,800 soldiers, which are to be permanently stationed in the Baltic nation bordering Russia by 2027. At the time, Moscow said the move would require “special measures” be taken in response.

Speaking about the Lithuanian deployment in the US, Pistorius called it “an unprecedented case in German history” and a “clear signal” to Russian President Vladimir Putin that “every inch” of NATO territory will be defended.

Earlier in the day, Pistorius also met with his US counterpart, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and revealed that Berlin had purchased three US-made HIMARS multiple rocket launchers for Ukraine.

“They come from US armed forces’ stocks and will be paid for by us,” he said. HIMARS launchers are mounted on a truck chassis and can fire multiple missiles in quick succession.

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Pistorius also commented on the possibility of reintroducing compulsory military service in Germany to help solve its personnel issues, saying its decision to end conscription in 2011 was a “mistake.” 

Times have now changed, he said, and “I am convinced that Germany needs some form of conscription.” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz appears less keen on the idea, however, saying last year that reintroducing the draft is “not a good idea.”

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