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German army chiefquits over cuts

Published on 20/01/2004

20 January 2004

BERLIN – The German army’s top officer resigned Tuesday after an apparent row with
Defence Minister Peter Struck over major defence spending cuts announced earlier this month.

Lieutenant-General Gert Gudera, commander of Germany’s “Heer” or land forces, asked to be relieved of duty, the defence ministry confirmed in a terse statement.

No reason was officially given for departure of the 60-year-old General Gudera, who has commanded the Heer since 2001.

Media reports said Gudera had been deeply angered over Struck’s EUR 26 billion defence spending cuts – much of which will hit the army. Despite imposing the cuts, Struck has also ordered the army to provide 18,000 troops for a new rapid reaction force.

Struck, after meeting troops in Koblenz, denied there had been a political row with Gudera.

But former German armed forces chief of staff, General Hans-Peter von Kirchbach, countered the minister and weighed in with harsh criticism of the left-leaning government’s defence cuts.

“Gudera’s step is an alarm signal because the gap is getting far too wide between the German armed forces’ mission and its resources,” warned Kirchbach in a Stuttgarter Nachrichten newspaper interview.

Kirchbach dismissed Struck’s plan to slash spending while seeking to created a new reaction force capable of missions anywhere in the world.

“Under Struck’s reform there will likely be a decrease rather than increase of capabilities,” said General von Kirchbach.

Struck has ordered the Bundeswehr, Germany’s combined armed forces, to be divided into three new operational commands with a total of about 250,000 troops – down from a present strength of 280,000 soldiers.

A further 10,000 civilian employees will also be eliminated from the Bundeswehr’s 128,000-strong civilian bureaucracy and 100 Bundeswehr bases will be closed.

Struck plans to keep the classical Bundeswehr division into army, air force and navy but revamp forces in a new triad with a rapid reaction force of 35,000 troops for high intensity warfare.

A second echelon will be a 70,000-member stabilisation division for low and medium intensity conflict.

A third element with 137,500 members will be for logistics and medical support and mainly comprised of civilian personnel.

German defence spending is currently frozen at about EUR 24 billion annually through 2006 and NATO allies have criticized Berlin for spending a lower proportion of GDP funds on defence than other major Alliance nations.

Germany spends less than 1.5 percent of GDP on its military compared with 2.5 percent for Britain and France and well over 3 percent for the United States.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder admits Germany’s armed forces, in their current form, have reached a global troop deployment limit with just 9,000 soldiers serving in Afghanistan and the Balkans.


Subject: German news