Accelerated Arms-Buildup

With German participation, NATO accelerates preparations, begun in 2014, for war with Russia. German Ministry of Economy seeks dismantlement of democracy to accelerate arms-buildup.

VILNIUS/BERLIN (Own report) – Led by Minister Robert Habeck (the Greens) the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is putting the parliament’s right to have a say in major military procurements into question, according to an expertise presented by Habeck’s advisors on Tuesday. The Green-led ministry is hoping to save time in the arms-buildup, by curtailing democratic processes. Last April, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) declared the “time factor” to be the essential criterion in his reform of military procurement. In the current procurement reform, transatlantic voices are gaining the upper hand, favoring a rapid upgrading in the Bundeswehr’s capabilities, at the expense of the promotion of an independent European arms industry. This is provoking new tensions with France. Germany is conducting its arms buildup largely within the NATO framework. The military alliance has recently confirmed its armament policy at its Vilnius summit. The NATO members agreed on further measures allowing them “to respond faster and at a greater scale.”

No Time for Parliamentary Control

For major arms projects, the German government is still currently dependent on approval by the Bundestag’s budget committee. In an expertise by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, advisors of Minister Robert Habeck have concluded that parliamentary controls tend to “drag out” the procurement procedure,[1] and should thus be abandoned. In addition, the ministry is opposing privileged consideration for European arms manufactures in awarding contracts. “Providers from other NATO countries, particularly from the USA,” could be excluded under current rules, the experts note. The rapid and concrete upgrading of the Bundeswehr’s capabilities would, however, be more important than the promotion of an independent European arms industry through special protectionist rules.

Advantage USA

The German defense ministry had already arrived at similar conclusions in April. According to the ministry, the Bundeswehr must again be enabled to fight “in larger formations.”[2] Referring to Russia, Defense Minister Pistorius declared in connection with the procurement reform that the “fastest possible” procurement of the necessary arms now has “top priority.”[3] The “time factor” is now of crucial importance. With his order of the day to speed up the procurement procedure, Pistorius had already decreed that preference be accorded to weapons systems available on the market, rather than time-consuming and cost-intensive new developments. This has already provoked a dispute with France, which prioritizes the development of an independent European arms industry and fears that Berlin’s decision to purchase the expensive US F-35 fighter jets would be at the expense of the Franco-German FCAS (Future Combat Air System) project.[4] With their initiatives, Habeck and Pistorius are following up on the 2022 Procurement Acceleration Act.

Nuclear Competitors

The Bundeswehr’s arms buildup is primarily being planned and implemented with an eye toward German activities within NATO, which, according to German Defense Minister Pistorius, meanwhile engage “nearly the entire German Armed Forces.”[5] At the recent summit in Vilnius, NATO members reiterated their intentions to establish “the full range” of military capabilities for “high-intensity, multi-domain warfighting” against “nuclear-armed peer-competitors.”[6] They agree to place particular emphasis on “combat capable, predominantly heavy, high-end forces” with high levels of readiness. The NATO concept for the future stipulates that 300,000 combat-ready soldiers be maintained. In addition, the Transatlantic Alliance will rely on “significantly increased stockpiles of munitions” and modernized NATO’s nuclear capability. To “sustainably” meet the needs in military equipment, a defense industrial capacity with crisis-proof supply chains is necessary, according to the declaration of the summit in Vilnius.

Zeitenwende 2014

Already back in 2014, during their summit in Newport (Wales), NATO states had agreed on their first package of measures in preparation for the military confrontation with Russia – the Readiness Action Plan – during.[7] Berlin, also, did not just embark on its, still ongoing, armaments course with the “Zeitenwende” in 2022, but also in 2014. Initially, Germany’s arms-buildup efforts were not yet pursued under the cover of NATO, but within the context of Germany’s national strategy paper – “New Power, New Responsibility.”[8] The demand of the strategy paper that Germany’s growing economic power must be translated into corollary political and military power at the global level, was, back then, and currently, consensus both in government circles and in the currently governing opposition of that time. Alongside a consistently increasing military budget, a reform of the procurement procedure was intended to contribute to Germany’s new military power. The “Agenda Armament” initiated by the defense ministry in 2014, was aimed at modernizing the procurement procedure and reinforcing the national arms industry. Since 2019, the procurement task force regularly issues a report on progress made and obstacles encountered in making the arms buildup process more efficient.

National Ambitions, Transatlantic Dependencies

In spite of the consensus pertaining to an accelerated arms-buildup, there is still disagreement in Berlin over the extent to which Berlin’s military power should be transatlanticly based. Whereas transatlantic hardliners want to arm Germany in order to relieve the USA in European conflicts and reinforce the transatlantic block, supporters of a strategic autonomy seek a militarily stronger Germany at the center of the EU, which is capable of shedding its dependence on the USA. The transatlanticists prefer to purchase weapons systems that are already available on the market – these are normally from the United States. Autonomists, on the other hand, prefer new developments within the European realm, to promote an autonomous European arms industry – in spite of all the additional costs. Until now, under the slogan “strengthening NATO’s European pillar,” Berlin was able, to maintain the arms-buildup consensus, despite all the differences over strategic orientation. However, now with Pistorius and Habeck’s prioritization of market-available solutions, the transatlanticists are gaining the upper hand. This, however, will have no impact on the Bundeswehr’s fundamental orientation toward preparing for a war with a great power.


[1] Manfred Schäfers: Wie Geld schneller zu Waffen wird. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 24.07.2023.

[2] Beschaffung bei der Bundeswehr: Schnelligkeit hat Priorität. 26.04.2023.

[3] Tagesbefehl: Beschleunigung des Beschaffungswesens. 26.04.2023.

[4] See also A New Epoch of Confrontation.

[5] New Force Model: Wie Deutschland sich ab 2025 in der NATO engagiert. 25.07.2022.

[6] Vilnius Summit Communiqué. 11.07.2023

[7] See also Einflusskampf im Baltikum.

[8] See also Die Neuvermessung der deutschen Weltpolitik.