Russian-Belorussian joint military exercise
by Adomas Abromaitis
Germany's Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen at a defence ministers' summit in Estonia on September, 7 criticised upcoming Russian-Belorussian "Zapad 2017" military exercises. She said that around 100,000 Russian soldiers will take part in the upcoming "Zapad 2017" war games, despite Moscow's claims that they will only have 12,700 participants and exercise will not exceed the 2011 Vienna Document limits.
Moscow and Minsk also insist on defensive character of the exercise. Two countries that constitute the Union State of Russia and Belarus pre-declared intention to improve interoperability of staffs of different levels as well as interfacing of prospective troops and armament control systems in order to be prepared to react adequately to emerging threats.
The statement of Germany's Minister of Defence fully contradicts these official sources and was likely made in order to divert attention from internal problems in the German Army and switch it to external factors.
Is Germany itself really ready to cope with rapidly changing geopolitical situation? This question should logically be addressed to the country's Minister of Defence Ursula von der Leyen. According to the European commission's report "Standard Eurobarometer 87", trust in the German Army has significantly fallen. The level of trust is only 66 %. This dubious achievement is on the conscience of the Minister.
Ursula von der Leyen has been taking this post since December 2013. Undoubtedly she recognised that her main goal was to make German Armed Forces stronger, instil confidence and relieve fears in German society. But permanent scandals associated with German Army have led to the opposite effect. First of all she has not managed to win respect among troops and civil society. Von der Leyen repeatedly harshly criticised national Armed Forces for military leadership failures, attitude problems and for tolerating right wing extremists, as well as sexual abuse cases. "The Bundeswehr has an attitude problem, and they have weaknesses in leadership at different levels," she said.
German soldiers in their turn reacted angrily, accusing her of collectively tarring them while failing to take responsibility herself.
Ms. von der Leyen realises that there are so many problems accumulated in defence sphere that she has no choice but to act, even make unproven statements. Such behaviour discredits the State. Providing false information the high-ranking official shows Berlin's fear of Moscow that is absolutely obnoxiously for Germans. Perhaps she is very close being the next to leave her post with scandal as many of her predecessors did.
Adomas Abromaitis is a prominent defence & strategic affairs journalist from Lithuania. This piece was written exclusively for IDN. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN
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