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Scholz and Pistorius Bicker Over How to Make Germany 'Fit for War' as Ukraine Drains Coffers

© AFP 2023 / TOBIAS SCHWARZGerman Chancellor Olaf Scholz and German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius. - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.06.2024
Amid Berlin’s saber-rattling in lockstep with Washington and other NATO allies, German generals and politicians have long complained of major problems with the Bundeswehr’s capabilities. How to remedy that, and the degree of warmongering, appear to have pitted Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Defense Minister Boris Pistorius against one another.
Tension is brewing between German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his increasingly pugnacious defense chief Boris Pistorius, Bloomberg reported.
The dispute between the two is rooted in their different visions for how Germany should rebuild its armed forces and revitalize its defense. Pistorius’ “tub-thumping” war rhetoric is fraught with potential trouble for his fellow Social Democrat Scholz ahead of next year’s elections, the outlet noted.
Public messaging from the two sees Scholz using plying the word “peace” more often. Campaign posters for June’s European elections featuring Scholz emblazoned with the word "Frieden" ("Peace"). Pistorius, on the other hand, is avidly beating the “war” drum.
The Bundeswehr needs to get "ready for war,” Pistorius said in an interview last year for Welt am Sonntag.

"It will take time for the defense industry to ramp up its capacities. We now have around five to eight years to catch up – both regarding the armed forces, industry and society," he stated.

Not that the two men are not on the same page when it comes to supporting the Kiev regime. Germany is one of the biggest cheerleaders of NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine, sending over 10 billion euros in military and economic support to Kiev. But its own Bundeswehr is both aging and shrinking. Modernizing the armed forces and covering maintenance costs for military equipment have become a challenge.
This is where the war rhetoric comes in. Pistorius has been arguing the alleged “Russia threatto urge the chancellor to dramatically hike up military spending. His language has been peppered with militaristic language that has not been heard from a German politician in the decades after World War II.
Scholz announced a "Zeitenwende" or "historic turning point" in 2022 when the Ukraine crisis escalated. He pledged to revive Germany’s military, but ambitious plans have since been mired in spending squabbles and the need to pump weapons and cash to the Kiev regime. Accordingly, the chancellor’s 100-billion-euro ($109 billion) defense fund “has already been fully allocated and will have been spent by 2027,” the publication noted.

The 100-billion-euro fund was announced by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to improve the country's defense capabilities shortly after the start of Russia's military operation in Ukraine in February 2022. The fund was approved by the German parliament in June of that year.

In January 2023, Pistorius told the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that the fund would not be enough for Germany to modernize its troops and called for an increase of 10 billion euros per year in the German defense budget. The defense minister has so far been unable to secure the extra funding.
Bundeswehr soldiers. File photo - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.03.2024
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Recently, several public disagreements have shone light on the growing distance between the two men. Scholz again rejected Pistorius’ request for greater defense spending, with Robert Habeck, vice chancellor from the Greens, and Finance Minister Christian Lindner all opting for belt-tightening. It should be noted that Germany has a so-called “debt brake” that restricts the federal deficit to 0.35 percent of GDP. Pistorius argued that “expenditure for defense and civil protection should not be included” in those rules. His statement was made during a trip to the US.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Pistorius is only singling out the option of creating security through debt. The citizens would thus be saddled with more and more permanent interest burdens. The better way is to reallocate money in our large state budget and get the economy moving,” Christian Linder shot back.

As Scholtz said in a podcast on May 17, “We all have to sweat… the minister of defense has my support for what he is planning and what he is doing.”
The chancellor also dismissed Pistorius’ proposal to reintroduce conscription, which was abolished in 2011. “It’s a good thing that we wait until there’s a well-considered idea,” Scholz said.
The German Armed Forces lack equipment and personnel, with stocks overall depleted by military deliveries to Ukraine, parliamentary commissioner for the Bundeswehr, Eva Hoegl, said last year. A total of 181,514 people were serving in the armed forces as of the end of 2023, with the average age of a German soldier being 38.8 years.
Amid dwindling troop numbers, Berlin has debated ways to broaden the recruitment net. Pistorius eventually ditched plans for military conscription in favor of a watered-down version of an optional military service, heavily doused with discounts and free courses enticements for student, Spiegel reported.
© AFP 2023 / FABIAN BIMMERGerman Chancellor Olaf Scholz (C), German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius (R) and CEO of Rheinmetall Armin Papperger pose in front of Leopard 2 tanks in Unterluess, Germany February 12, 2024.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (C), German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius (R) and CEO of Rheinmetall Armin Papperger pose in front of Leopard 2 tanks in Unterluess, Germany February 12, 2024. - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.06.2024
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (C), German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius (R) and CEO of Rheinmetall Armin Papperger pose in front of Leopard 2 tanks in Unterluess, Germany February 12, 2024.
Pent-up frustration reportedly led Pistorius to threaten to quit his post during a closed-door meeting in the ministry last month. However, he thought better of it, telling reporters that, “I’m still burning for this job, and you won’t get rid of me that quickly.”
As the tensions between the two German politicians simmer, it should be noted that Boris Pistorius is currently Germany's most popular politician, according to a survey cited by Bild am Sonntag at the end of 2023. Some 42% of people surveyed by the political research group INSA wanted Pistorius to have more influence in German politics. The chancellor's own rating plunged even more, with Scholz receiving a 26% approval rating. Meanwhile, German media reported earlier this year that the rating of the ruling Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), of which incumbent Chancellor Olaf Scholz is a member, had fallen to a record low, with only 13% of the total population willing to vote for it.
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz briefs the media about the budget 2022 during a news conference in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, June 23, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.05.2024
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