Germany to add more soldiers in NATO exercises

Berlin, Feb 20: Germany will significantly increase the number of its armed forces personnel participating in NATO exercises on the military alliance's "Eastern frontier", media reports on Monday said. Around 12,000 German soldiers will participate in such exercises in 2018, according to a schedule drawn up by the Ministry of Defense, Xinhua reported. The figure marks a three-fold increase compared to 2017, resulting in total costs estimated at $111.4 million. The single largest upcoming NATO maneuver, "Trident Juncture", will be carried out in the fall and mobilize between 30,000 and 40,000 soldiers in total. Around 8,000 Germans will participate in this exercise. The news comes only a few days after Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the annual Munich Security Conference (MSC), warned against a heightened risk of a military confrontation between the United States and Russia. However, the newspaper "Rheinische Post" reported that inadequate equipment could still hamper German efforts to "play a greater role" in the international security landscape. Among others, there reportedly was a lack of protective clothing, tents and functioning tanks. The Ministry of Defence rejected such claims on Monday, emphasizing that a thorough investigation of the needs of the armed forces would be conducted before their deployment to ensure full operational readiness. The acting minister of defense, Ursula von der Leyen (CDU), has repeatedly expressed a desire to increase German defense spending from currently 1.26 per cent of annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP), to 2 per cent as envisioned by NATO. German military officials defended the exercises published on Monday as a response to growing fears in Eastern European states, such as Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Poland, of a potential Russian invasion. The 2018 maneuvers, with foreboding titles such as "Saber Strike", "Flaming Thunder" and "Iron Wolf", are officially intended as deterrence against Russia and will complement a general build-up of NATO's permanent troop presence in Eastern Europe which is already underway.

IANS