Although the deployment of the German brigade is constantly the subject of fierce disputes in Lithuania, the German journalist assured that the loud statements of Lithuanian politicians or the issue of the brigade itself are not of interest to the German public. True, the attitude of the German population towards the future support of the country’s soldiers to the Allies in the event of a real military threat is worrying.
Differences in translation
R. Veser, foreign policy editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, speaking to the news portal lrytas.ltnoticed that since the communiqué signed in June by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz regarding the deployment of the German brigade, German politicians have been speaking exactly the same and have not changed their position.
“Their opinion is that approximately half of the brigade’s soldiers will be in Lithuania permanently, and half will remain in Germany, but they will be appointed for the purpose of quickly arriving in Lithuania in the event of a threat,” he said.
True, after reading the communique of the leaders of Lithuania and Germany, which was translated into English and German, R. Veser was surprised to see that the word “initially” no longer exists in the German version (At first – lit.). This, according to him, changes the essence of the statements made in the German and English communiqués.
“According to the English version, “initially” a command element of the forward brigade forces will be permanently stationed in Lithuania. However, the communiqué on the website of the German chancellor does not contain the word “initially” – it states that the brigade will be led by a permanent headquarters in Lithuania, but does not say where the brigade will be.
There is another sentence that is identical in the German and English versions – it refers to a military unit that will be ready for quick redeployment in the event of a threat.
The communication is not unambiguous, apparently each side draws from it what they want to read. But what strikes me most is that the one word that is in the English original is not in the German document. I don’t understand how this can be, because it is an essential word”, assessed R. Veser.
Struggle for funds
According to R. Veser, in order to understand the position of German politicians regarding the deployment of the brigade, it is important to see what kind of discussions about the Bundeswehr are taking place in Germany itself. The German journalist emphasized that the country’s army is in a very bad condition, because it was unpopular to allocate funds to the army for almost thirty years.
Now Chancellor O. Scholz has allocated a special budget of 100 billion euros to the German army. However, German military experts note that such funds are not enough for the reconstruction of the Bundeswehr.
According to R. Veser, serious discussions are currently taking place in Germany about who and how much of these funds will be allocated – at least a few billion would be needed to repair the infrastructure, as well as to purchase the missing ammunition.
Both the German ground forces and the air or naval forces seek the largest possible share of funds for their units, presenting arguments in their favor, so it becomes difficult to understand where the biggest weaknesses really are, and where the negotiators are working well.
According to R. Veser, the German soldiers calculate that, in order to really achieve the required state of the Bundeswehr, the country’s army would need 300 billion euros. And German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, according to the journalist, is currently demanding that another 10 million be allocated to the army. euros more, but even this amount is still under fierce negotiations.
“B. Pistorius recently said that now the Bundeswehr is not in such a condition that it could actually defend us from a brutal attack. So, in this context, it is necessary to see how they look at the brigade in Lithuania.
“There are many defense experts in Germany who believe that the Bundeswehr would not be able to afford to have an entire brigade somewhere abroad at the moment, that the army is not capable of that,” stated R. Veser.
True, the journalist himself said that he doubts whether this is a valid excuse.
“It seems to me that this should not be a problem financially. In my personal opinion, you need to look at the map, and then it becomes clear why it would be very important to have a brigade in Lithuania – because it is not clear where the Russian army will be in ten days,” he assessed.
Although the German leadership is not determined to deploy all brigades in Lithuania in the short term, R. Veser does not rule out that Berlin’s position could be changed by NATO’s decision.
“When B. Pistorius was in Lithuania, he said that NATO must decide whether keeping a brigade in Lithuania makes military sense, or whether more flexible structures are needed. If Lithuania were to succeed in moving this issue to the NATO level, maybe then Germany would also move faster”, he did not rule it out.
The journalist noticed that the communiqué on the brigade does not only refer to German soldiers – it is indicated that this military unit would simply be commanded by Germany.
“The solution could be that the brigade would have soldiers from more states, and only its leadership would be German. In this case, there may be many options, which are probably being considered by the relevant institutions,” he reflected.
In the Lithuanian public space, there are constant loud discussions about the German brigade, and loud statements by Lithuanian politicians are often accompanied by fears “what the Germans themselves will think about it”.
However, according to R. Veser, the majority of the German public neither thinks nor speaks about the issue of deployment of the brigade – only German specialists and those who are very interested in foreign or security policy discuss this issue.
According to the journalist, and last week’s statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabrielius Landsbergis, that “if Germany cannot deploy a brigade in Lithuania, then we will look for other partners who can”, did not reach the Germans themselves.
R. Veser noticed that the question of the German brigade appears in the press only when discussing whether Germany looks like a reliable partner in the eyes of the allies. But, according to him, there are more such discussions only in specialist circles.
“However, from a broader perspective, the picture is very sad, because in public surveys, when people were asked that if a NATO member was attacked, whether Germany should immediately help and send its troops, only half of the population answered positively to this question. Part of the answer is that we shouldn’t,” said the journalist.
Changes in the military
In January, former German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht resigned, her position was taken over by B. Pistorius, and three days ago it became clear that he was changing the head of the country’s armed forces – this position will soon be taken over from General Eberhard Zorn by Major General Carsten Breuer.
R. Veser explained that E. Zorn, who previously led the army, held his position since 2018 and was respected, but B. Pistorius, according to him, wants to send a signal to the public that changes await the army.
“The army commander was in his post for quite a long time, he “outlived” four ministers of defense and two chancellors. It’s just that B. Pistorius now wants to move the army, he needs new people, he needs to show that he is changing the leadership.
The man who is now becoming the head of the army is quite well-known in Germany, because during the coronavirus pandemic, the Bundeswehr helped organize the vaccination process, helped in old people’s homes.
He organized all that internal support of the Bundeswehr, so he is known as a person who is able to lead, to motivate, this was a signal to both the army and society that now it will be different than before,” explained R. Veser.