Germany is confident it will have the best equipped army division amongst European NATO allies in 2025, Army Chief Alfons Mais told Reuters, as countries are scrambling to gear up their troops in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
At the moment, Berlin does not have a single combat-ready division, a military unit comprising more than 20,000 troops. It aims to have the first of three divisions operational by 2025, with the second to follow in 2027.
“I am very optimistic that we will get it (the division for 2025) done,” Mais told Reuters in an interview published on Monday, adding the division would initially have 80%-90% of the required personnel and that the plans were agreed with NATO.
The lieutenant general said Germany would provide two mechanized brigades first, a – more lightly armed – medium brigade later, and be reinforced by a Dutch brigade. A brigade has some 5,000 troops.
“This will be good enough,” the lieutenant general said. “It will be sufficient, in any case, to contribute the best equipped division of all European NATO partners in 2025. At least, this is our joint goal with our Dutch partners.”
Divisions are the land forces’ main organizational building blocks that would be needed to handle a conflict with a peer adversary.
Western nations are scrambling to rebuild and re-equip their divisions after decades spent fighting smaller wars in Iraq or Afghanistan saw them neglected, taken apart and stripped of weapons and ammunitions.
Mais acknowledged that it will be ambitious to supply the division with enough ammunition by 2025 at a time when Western countries are supplying huge amounts of shells to Kyiv, further depleting stocks severely run down since the end of the Cold War.
“If we rush ammunition to Ukraine, we don’t have it available ourselves until the new orders come in,” he said. “You can’t buy munitions at the DIY store, production capabilities have shrunk over the past 30 years.”
The army chief said this was a problem all NATO partners were facing. “But supporting Ukraine is more important right now than establishing a division, as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has stressed,” he underlined.
As for the second German division which is meant to be combat-ready in 2027, Mais said equipping it fully was massively hinging on the arrival of purchases from the 100 billion euro special fund materialising at troop level.
In a major shift of policy, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a “Zeitenwende” (historical turning point) after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and the establishment of the special fund to modernise a German military suffering from decades of financial neglect.