July 15, 2019
No queues in Berlin for von der Leyen’s succession
There is a highly revealing article in FAZ this morning, which speculates on the political crisis that would result from a No vote on von der Leyen tomorrow. The author was referring to the crisis in the grand coalition, not the crisis in the EU. Peter Cartens, the author of the article, says that von der Leyen is unlikely to return to her job in the defence ministry in Bonn. Von der Leyen’s departure will open a whole can of worms for the grand coalition’s future defence policy.
We recall that the defence ministry used to be a springboard for future leaders - like Franz-Josef Strauss and Helmut Schmidt. The political status of the ministry has gradually declined over the decades. Tagesschau raises the possibility that either Jens Spahn or Peter Altmaier could take over from von der Leyen - but there seems to be no queue of candidates for this job. Carstens notes that the job will consist of reversing the spending cuts earmarked for 2021.
There are a number of big decisions to be taken. One is the acquisition of four multi-purpose battleships, new Eurofighters for the Luftwaffe, drones, the overhaul of the domestic air defence system, and the acquisition of a new assault rifle. These come in addition to two European projects - a future fighter aircraft and a Franco-German co-operation to build a new tank.
Internally the defence ministry needs to reform its procurement policies following a series of scandals. Carstens concludes by noting the defence budget went up by a third between 2009 and 2020. We assume that this number is nominal - and thus vastly exaggerates the true picture. This is why we are sticking with the GDP ratios, which give us a more sober picture, and which reflect the totally dilapidated state of the Bundeswehr, the German federal armed forces.
We agree with the assessment in the Tagesschau article that the Bundeswehr is managing to fulfil its obligations under Nato, but that this is coming at the expense of what is left domestically. We agree with Ulrike Franke (@RikeFranke) from the ECFR that Germany is no longer taken serious by its allies in the field of security policy. This is also why we are not sure that the big beast in Merkel’s government - like Altmaier - will be lining up for the defence job.