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Germany’s soldiers of misfortune (politico.eu)
31 points by smacktoward 37 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 35 comments

In case anyone has missed it, Angela Merkel could not attend the beginning of the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires because her plane, which is operated by the Flugbereitschaft [0] (part of the Luftwaffe) had to make an emergency landing because of serious technical problems [1]. It's a sad state of affairs, and getting increasingly embarrassing.

That being said, you have to be careful. There recently was an insightful article in the FAZ [2] (in German). Basically, a few years ago, the current minister of defense Ursula von der Leyen started to reform a department that may be seen as something between a gentlemen's club of military traditionalists and a lobby organization of the military industrial complex with around 250.000 employees. It swallowed up copious amounts of tax money, and Ursula von der Leyen made herself a lot of enemies among the profiteers of that system by trying to put this to an end. She then made the mistake of attacking Bundeswehr traditions which may be seen as politically incorrect and archaic from the outside, but are important for the troop morale. So, if you like conspiracy theories, you may argue that there are people inside the Bundeswehr who are interested in making the army look worse than it actually is, as long as it undermines von der Leyen's political position.

[0] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flugbereitschaft_des_Bundesmin...

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/29/angela-merkel-...

[2] https://www.faz.net/aktuell/ursula-von-der-leyen-gorch-dock-...

> it sounds like an exaggeration to compare Germany’s Bundeswehr to “The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight,” look no further than the army’s standard-issue assault rifle, Heckler & Koch’s G36. The government decided to scrap the weapon after discovering that the gun misses its target if it’s too hot.

Is this actually indicative of a design flaw? All guns' accuracy degrade as the barrel heats up. The metal flexes more and expands, thus throwing off the zero. Weapons like belt fed machine guns mitigate this by having heavy barrels to soak up heat, and quick-change barrels to swap them out with fresh cold ones. Internet searches about the G36's accuracy problems seem rife with fudd-lore. Government studies did not find said accuracy problems: https://m.dw.com/en/heckler-and-koch-vindicated-in-g36-accur...

Other firearms like tank cannons get around this by having barrel sag sensors that adjust the crosshairs to compensate for the effect of the sag.

I get that nit picking the anecdote in the opening statements is kind of pedantic. But it shapes my senses of the author's technical understand (or lack thereof) for the rest of the article.

Due to the extensive polymer use in it's construction the G36 is more sensitive to heat buildup than other assault rifles. Therefore it is very likely that the rifle did in fact perform underwhelmingly in hot areas at high rates of fire. Moreso than a metal construction rifle would. It's almost certain that the new rifle will be the HK433.

It's a funny statement when you think about it

> the gun misses its target if it's too hot

What does 'too hot' mean? Too hot... to do what? How do we define 'too hot'? Too hot to hit its target? Well that's tautological then isn't it - a rifle that is too hot to hit its target will not hit its target.

Presumably all rifles at some point get too hot to hit their targets, because at some point they're going to simply melt. So all rifles miss their targets when they get too hot. If they're not missing their targets then they're not too hot are they?

I guess what they mean is that the rifle starts to miss its targets at a lower temperature than other rifles, but that's not what they said. It's one of those statements that seems to make sense on first reading but then when you really think about what it says, it doesn't say anything and you could say it about all rifles and be truthful.

> What does 'too hot' mean?

"The weapon's capacity to hit targets fell to 30 percent when the surrounding temperature reached 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) or when the weapon became hot through constant use, the report said."


I mean, I guess they could limit their military operations to temperate days, and not shoot the rifle too much to avoid these kinds of problems.

> I mean, I guess they could limit their military operations to temperate days, and not shoot the rifle too much to avoid these kinds of problems.

It's important to remember that the German army's equipment was originally intended for NATO defense of western Europe, basically to defend a conventional soviet attack in Northern Germany. That's true for the tanks and armored vehicles as well, which also had issues when Germany first took them to places like Afghanistan. Germany participating in operations externally to Germany is only a thing since 1999 (Kosovo).

I don't think it's important to remember that in context of the G36. The gun basically doesn't work if you pop a couple of rounds through it, or if it's hot out. I'm certain it didn't pass any of their mil specs.

It passed all the military specs. That has been settled in court, the manufacturer H&K didn't have to pay any damages.

Right - that's what I suggested it really meant. I was commenting on how the article was phrased not actually about the rifle.

Ian McCollum of “Forgotten Weapons,” who I hold to be an authority on the subject, commented on this in a recent video. IIRC, in his view, this problem is not nearly as big of a deal as it’s been made out to be.

Yes! Ian does such great work,one of my all time favorite YT channels!

Yeah, the main problem was that the weapon is not designed to work in conditions like in Afghanistan. That's why soldiers in Afghanistan (righfully) complained.

Then, the weapon trades of weight (plastic), against accuracy (in long fire fights). And if that is the correct trade-off to make is of course debatable and depends on the usage.

The awkward reality is that, for nations like Germany (and Italy, and Belgium, and the Netherlands, and...), they have no land borders with unfriendly countries, and no significant overseas possessions that would be worth the effort to make a large navy to protect. Poland, the Baltic states, Turkey, etc. have more reason to be enthusiastic about NATO; western Europe simply does not.

In fact, one could argue that Germany is _safer_ to have a hapless looking military, because it causes France, Poland, etc. to all see them as incapable of being a military threat, and that keeps relations with their neighbors on a friendlier plane. It seems unfair to the U.S., because many of the wealthiest nations of NATO spend the least on their defense, but it is simply a reflection of their actual position.

Not to say that it could never change, but it's not as if the current attitude towards defense spending in Germany is entirely nonrational.

Germany is very close to Russia. The Russians would have already taken the Baltic states and probably more of Ukraine (if not all of it) were it not for American leadership.

Everywhere outside North America is touchy.

To suggest that Germany or any European country without oversea territories is threatened military by china is ludicrous scare mongering. China has barely any capacity to protect power much further than it's coastal waters.

And there is something similar to be said of Russia. The US wants to maintain a dependency that is being harder to justify.

"China has barely any capacity to protect power much further than it's coastal waters."

Literally China is grabbing international territory 1000's of Km of their coast.

China is rapidly developing the ability to project hard power beyond it's borders, most obviously in the S. China Sea wherein they are trying to declare otherwise recognized 'international waters' as their own, and trying to thwart others from passage.

They'll have almost 100 submarines soon (a shockingly large fleet), for example.

They are going to try to project their power within East/South Asia for their own gain, this news is not controversial at least not to the many other nations already feeling the tensions and buying up weapons.

See: 'String of Pearls' [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_of_Pearls_(Indian_Ocean...

As a US citizen i would love to see Germany pay for their own defense. So sure have at it.

Ah man I hate that so many Americans seem to think they are paying anything for Germany’s defense. It’s just not true.

Sure there are US troops in Germany but only because you need them to be here for your own purposes like that Rammstein base for example which is used to relay data so your drones in the Middle East can work. Of course you’ll have to pay for something like that one way or another. We even pay a percentage (~10%) of the construction cost of your bases. But you‘re not here for us. The majority of Germans is against US troops in Germany btw.

We Germans don’t receive any kind of military financing from the US. In fact we pay you money in exchange for military equipment ($163.7 million in 2014 for example).

I meant that Germany relies on the US for defense. Not that we directly pay you to defend yourselves.

"We even pay a percentage (~10%) of the construction cost of your bases"

Because that base is the cost of the US military. I think you are focusing too much on the US assets in Germany as the deterrent.

Frankly, the only way the US could be said to 'pay for the world's defence' is if one could argue that the bulk of US military spending increases the security and safety of the world.

Prima facie, this is obviously not the case. The big-ticket items, the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, have obviously reduced both regional and world stability, to the extent that bloody ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks are now a perennial threat in european cities.

I'd hazard a guess that the Obama-era, 'drone strikes for jihadis' programme probably was a net gain for world security, but the whole point about drones and targeted assassination is it's very cheap.

The other aspect of the US contribution to world safety is in the sense of a deterrent - the US keeps nations like Russia or China from getting too pushy. On the other hand, it has a habit of poking such nations in the eye with a stick. It's hard to see whether US actions have deterred Russian aggression, for instance, or whether they have actually provided the impetus for such aggression. Certainly, the latter interpretation is what the Russians think.

So I guess the US does pay for a lot, but I feel it's more in the sense that the US pays for the world's healthcare. Being the sheep that gets fleeced the most doesn't put the less-fleeced sheep in your debt.

As a non US citizen, may I ask you to please read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exorbitant_privilege The US military defends this privilege. Everyone is open to the US dropping both its privilege, and its reliance on force to impose it. Since 2001 it's floundered mightily anyway.

I'm not implying that the US should stop its military spending. Just that allies take their defense more seriously.

This sounds similar to the state of affairs in Scandinavia. The part about there being little pride in being a soldier rings especially true. Scandinavians have died in military operations in Afghanistan, but you never hear about it. No one wants to hear about it, because we don't see ourselves as warlike nations. Germany probably has that times 100 due to the legacy of the Nazis.

Yeah, they try to fight the stigma in Germany by promoting the service as a fun adventure and to gamers...


> Scandinavians have died in military operations in Afghanistan, but you never hear about it

"Scandinavians" is in this case seems deliberately vague. It's certainly covered in Norwegian media, can't speak to wherever you're from.

Most of the Norwegians I know take great pride in their 18 months of military service.

The US should have pulled out of NATO a long time ago but empires of even that sort are hard to give up. The EU is more than capable of providing for their own security and perhaps having to do it all would make some wavering member states understand that they are truly all in it together.

I don't understand where any of this comes from. The US has profited greatly (financially, strategically, (geo)politically) from basically owning Western Europe as a base of operations in that part of the hemisphere. It wasn't an act of generosity to form NATO. It was a calculated plan to ensure America's global hegemony, from which we've all benefited (for better or worse).

The justification for OP's position I've heard, and must say it kind of makes sense, is that the US's major benefit to running the empire was having a lot of nations buying its exports. But the US is no longer a net exporter, so the benefits of being the global hegemon are similarly in decline.

The justification you may have heard less, is that the US hegemony maintains the place of the dollar as the world's reserve and exchange currency. This is where the real power lies. For example the owner of the reserve currency can export its inflation to the rest of the world...

"This is where the real power lies. "

No, it is not. The petrodollar or seignorage as the basis for economic supremacy is conspiratorial.

The US essentially guarantees the safety of Europe because they had to given the situation after WW2.

Europeans consistently under invest on this issue largely because they know the Americans won't fail or back down.

And FYI, US bases in Europe do not guarantee any kind of petrodollar anyhow.

The response that 'America is the one that wins by protecting everyone' is factually incorrect and borderline hypocritical because it hides the fact that Europeans are absolutely not doing what they need to do to ensure integrity of their own nations.

Without US led action - the Baltic states would have already been grabbed by Russia, and Ukraine would be 100% politically controlled by Russia, if not occupied. Poland would again be 'the buffer'.

The EU has a gaping hole in this sense - they are a massive, federated economy who cannot defend themselves with some bad actors nipping at their heels.

China is very rapidly developing the ability to project hard power at least thousands of km away from it's land, at least in the S. China sea and beyond. Certainly with the objective of swallowing Taiwan, and maintaining supremacy throughout East/South Asia. For what it's worth.

The Euros need to do their part and coordinate defence of their own borders, right now they are behind in this area.

The last time the US was a next exporter was in 1980: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/NETEXP

What changed? NATO was pretty popular in 1985, as I recall.

Theoretically being a importer is even better. You get valuable natural resources, goods, services and labour in exchange to green paper with $ on it (or database entries in banks). One just has to distribute the gains to keep the population satisfied (which military spending does, albeit inefficiently).


For odd reasons, the Dems and neocon Repubs are the ones wanting to remain in these alliances and engagements whereas the current admin wants to withdraw.

I disagree.

Sure, there's profit motive. But 80 years ago, US population was extremely against any kind of military involvement overseas, and funding of US military reflected it.

But turns out even if we don't want war, there's always someone/something like Hitler, Putin, Communism etc etc. And due to the size/location of US, US is forced to take a role overseas.

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