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  • German and Czech soldiers are carrying out a military exercise In Lithuania.

  • The potential enemy: Russia.

  • Their mission: deterrence and a show of strength on NATO's eastern flank.

  • We will deter the enemy with all the means at our disposal.

  • The world is growing less secure and more confusing.

  • A renewed arms race with nuclear and conventional weapons is imminent.

  • Existing alliances are crumbling.

  • We need to be firm, we need to be strong to deter

  • any potential aggressor from attacking us to preserve the peace.

  • Germany and its neighbors could again be caught in the middle

  • between the superpowers.

  • Russia is laying claim to territory and for the first time since World War Two

  • a country is taking that territory by force.

  • This is a potential threat of the highest order.

  • And anyone who opposes a rearmament debate is not just naive.

  • That's incredibly dangerous.

  • Can the German military, the Bundeswehr, meet the new challenges?

  • I do believe that the German military is in a very dire and critical state.

  • The number of ships that can't sail, the number of planes that can't fly.

  • Can the western alliance system still guarantee security?

  • What role does Germany play in NATO and in the world?

  • When NATO sounds the alarm, the order reaches the

  • 9th Armoured Demonstration Brigade in Munster in northwestern Germany.

  • This time the mail is about an exercise.

  • But the entire apparatus responds as it would in a genuine emergency.

  • The brigade provides part of the ground troops for NATO's

  • Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, the VJTF.

  • It was established in 2014 in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea.

  • I've received the alarm order, now I evaluate it.

  • And then I decipher the letter combinations in the order to find out

  • which alarm measures have actually been triggered.

  • For that I consult the Bundeswehr crisis response plan,

  • so I can see which alarm measures are behind the combinations of letters.

  • I'll check which measures are important for the VJTF brigade

  • and then I'll inform the chief and the brigade leadership accordingly.

  • Rapid response units are central to NATO's new threat scenarios.

  • In this instance an emergency situation that involves fighting off

  • an enemy attack will be rehearsed in a maneuver in Poland.

  • Within three days at the most,

  • 2,300 soldiers from three countries have to be ready to move.

  • All the strands come together here in a high security area at headquarters.

  • It's a logistical challenge to coordinate the troops from

  • Germany, Norway, and The Netherlands.

  • We have to establish communication with the

  • First German Armored Division and the German-Netherlands Corps.

  • I want the initial results in 90 minutes.

  • The clock is also ticking for Major Marja Alm.

  • Nothing unususal to report in the area.

  • Very good.

  • The major heads a company of around 250 soldiers.

  • The biggest challenge for us is to be ready to move within 48 hours.

  • My soldiers have to load all the trucks,

  • the trucks have to be organized in convoys.

  • My heavy vehicles have to be prepared for rail transport.

  • 48 hours is not a lot of time.

  • Major Alm is an experienced soldier who has served

  • on foreign missions in Mali and Kosovo.

  • Now she has to ensure that the command in Poland

  • will have a fully equipped workplace.

  • Around 600 vehicles

  • including 70 tanks

  • are setting off from garrisons around Germany to head for Poland.

  • The rapid response force is more important to NATO than ever.

  • But today, at a time when Europe again has to worry about security,

  • how united are the partners in the alliance?

  • Washington, April 2019.

  • NATO celebrated the 70th anniversary of its founding.

  • For seven decades the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has used its

  • deterrence capability to protect peace, freedom and prosperity

  • on both sides of the Atlantic.

  • A day before the ceremony,

  • the west's leading defense and foreign policy officials gathered at a meeting.

  • It was supposed to be a celebration of 70 years of NATO and transatlantic relations.

  • But then, US Vice President Mike Pence took to the podium to issue a rebuke.

  • More of our allies are now meeting their commitments.

  • But still too many others are falling short.

  • And as we all acknowledge, Germany is chief among them.

  • Germany is Europe's largest and healthiest economy.

  • It's a leading global exporter and it's benefited from

  • US protection of Europe for generations.

  • Germany must do more.

  • A not-so diplomatic attack on the alliance partner that has not invested

  • the agreed two percent of its GDP in defense.

  • The German foreign minister had to try to explain why his wealthy country

  • wasn't prepared to spend more on European security.

  • I know that our budgetary process is sometimes difficult

  • for outsiders to understand, and believe me not just for them.

  • However, we made a firm commitment to invest more money in defense.

  • And we intend to keep our word.

  • We in Europe know that we cannot take our security for granted.

  • A rather modest show of strength from the foreign minister.

  • Heiko Maas left the meeting by the back door to avoid unwanted questions.

  • A fitting image of Germany's appearance at the NATO summit.

  • Germany has already promised its allies at three summits

  • to raise military spending as agreed.

  • The Defense Ministry would like to see a hefty rise

  • to 54.7 billion euros a year.

  • But the Finance Ministry has other plans.

  • It even wants spending to drop in the coming yearsto 44.2 Billion.

  • That corresponds to 1.23 percent of GDP

  • so even further below NATO's two percent target.

  • Julianne Smith was a security advisor in the Obama administration,

  • and is a prominent expert on German-American relations.

  • I do think the NATO alliance has a Germany problem

  • because now one of its largest allies is unwilling or unable to meet

  • a commitment that essentially all allies made in 2014.

  • This is not a situation where the Trump administration is

  • fired up and frustrated with the German government.

  • We're now facing a situation where Democrats and Republicans alike

  • are quite critical of Berlin and its failure to meet that target.

  • I understand that almost all politicians would like to spend money on

  • something else than defense

  • on health, on education, on infrastructure.

  • At the same time, we expect Germany to invest more in defense

  • because we all promised to do so back in 2014.

  • But Germany's governing coalition of conservatives and Social Democrats

  • has a different take on the numbers:

  • they say Germany has invested more than 30 billion euros in NATO since 2014,

  • provided the second largest contingent of troops in Afghanistan,

  • and taken part in many missions around the world.

  • The Social Democrats in particular oppose a sudden rise in the defense budget.

  • Foreign and defense policy expert Rolftzenich explains.

  • We provide suitable personnel to NATO.

  • We try to coordinate with our alliance partners and are guided by quality.

  • And back when the German government accepted this two-percent target,

  • we in Parliament said, 'Ultimately wethe lawmakers

  • are the ones who will decide what will be in the annual budget.'

  • Carlo Masala, a professor at the Bundeswehr University in Munich,

  • advises the government on security issues.

  • He says economizing on military spending would be disastrous.

  • It's not just grossly naive, it's negligent and risky.

  • Here in Europe we are currently in a situation where

  • the Russian Federation with its armament efforts has an advantage

  • in strategic escalation that we currently can't compete with.

  • Vladimir Putin's Russia has changed the world in terms of security policy.

  • When the Cold War ended, it seemed unthinkable,

  • but the world is now once again in the middle of an arms race.

  • And Putin has been testng the limits of the NATO alliance

  • with the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the Russian annexation of Crimea.

  • Russia on the other hand feels provoked by NATO's eastern enlargement plans.

  • In April 2016, over the Baltic Sea, 130 kilometers from Kaliningrad.

  • Two Russian fighter jets carried out 20 mock attacks on a US warship.

  • And the number of provocations is increasing.

  • There are threats that we have to address or challenges we have to address

  • in the North Atlantic with increased Russian submarine activity

  • and our lack of sensors up there to understand what's going on.

  • There's definitely a threat stemming from Russia.

  • NATO takes that threat very seriously.

  • Its response has been, for example, the exercise in Poland

  • with the brigades from Germany, Norway and the Netherlands.

  • Four days after the raising of the alarm in Munster,

  • the VJTF rapid response troops are on their way to the Noble Jump exercise.

  • The more than 2,300 soldiers are being trained to ensure Europe's security

  • under German leadership.

  • Noble Jump is basically all about NATO's rapid response troop.

  • The task is deterrence through a show of strength.

  • But if, at the end of the day, that doesn't help we have to clearly show

  • that we are in a position to defend the territory of the alliance

  • and if necessary to restore the territorial integrity of NATO.

  • It's just after 4 o'clock in the morning.

  • The 9th armored demonstration brigade positions itself.

  • Helge Timm commands a Leopard 2 tank.

  • It weighs 64 tons and has a 1,500 horsepower engine.

  • We're here on a Leopard 2 battle tank.

  • We have crew of four men.

  • This is my driver.

  • He steers according to my orders.

  • The gunner is responsible for the exchange of fire.

  • And the loader is responsible for all the weapons on the tank

  • including the machine guns.

  • I'm the commander — I coordinate everything.

  • Final preparations for the maneuver.

  • Helge Timm and his crew take up battle position.

  • Okay, sight gunner, swing the tower to the right.

  • You've got woods on the right.

  • Do you recognize.

  • Okay, swing more to the left.

  • Right there you can see the observation center of the platoon.

  • The mission here is to retake a village.

  • Even though no one wants to say it openly,

  • the rapid response troop is supposed to deter Russia.

  • Today the enemy only consists of dummies and decommissioned tanks.

  • Here on our left my platoon is in position.

  • Next to them is another platoon in position.

  • Further ahead in the left-hand section

  • there's also a Norwegian company in position.

  • They are all ready and waiting for the shooting to start.

  • Backward march!

  • Helge Timm's tank platoon is one of NATO's elite units.

  • It is a fully-equipped brigade

  • which makes it quite an exception in the Bundeswehr.

  • By 2031 the military is supposed to have eight fully equpped brigades.

  • But at the moment not a single one is 100 percent ready for action.

  • Even the VJTF troops had to borrow material from all over Germany.

  • Everyone has realized that the way the system functions at the moment,

  • that we had to bring material from throughout the Bundeswehr

  • to Munster or other places to fulfill our mission,

  • that that is not an acceptable state of affairs.

  • This is not about buildup but adequate equipment.

  • Those eight brigades have to be fully equipped so that

  • they can be just as ready for action as this brigade is.

  • Fully equipping them will be costly,

  • but Germany has made a binding commitment to NATO.

  • The army estimates that the price for a single

  • brigade will amount to five billion euros.

  • But in recent years,

  • there has been practically no investment in material and equipment.

  • And even with a lot of money it will be hard to quickly rebuild

  • all the structures that have been dismantled over the years.

  • Last projectile

  • There are systems in the Bundeswehr that are older than I am

  • and we still have the problem that when we are deployed in major NATO exercises,

  • we can meet our obligations,

  • but it comes at the expense of operations and exercises back home.

  • We no longer invested in large stockages of replacement parts nor of ammunition.

  • And now to fill up and modernize everthing in

  • the existing structures will take until 2031.

  • We will definitely need that many years to get to the point where

  • we can meet NATO and EU demands.

  • Sometimes even a piece of fencing can stop

  • 60 tons of military high-tech in its tracks.

  • Tank commaner Helge Timm is not happy with the situation!

  • Go in there, turn the motor on,

  • give a signal to the front and then drive backwards a bit.

  • Time is pressing.

  • The tank crew has to get the vehicle back into position for the NATO exercise.

  • The scenario that is being rehearsed here is chillingly realistic:

  • The task of lIberating a village symbolizes the fear of an invasion by enemy troops.

  • Right here.

  • In Poland.

  • In Europe.

  • After five hours the maneuver is completed for Helge Timm and his crew.

  • The commander is 32, his comrades are under 30.

  • The Cold War is something they only know from history books.

  • When I joined up, the Bundeswehr was already involved in missions abroad.

  • But now the threat is different.

  • We see here that a completely battle-ready brigade has been formed

  • to engage in high-intensity combat, if necessary.

  • The idea of defending the alliance and their country

  • is no longer entirely theoretical.

  • Three-quarters of a century after the end of World War II

  • that has become an imaginable scenario for German soldiers.

  • I have been a soldier for 35 years.

  • I saw the Wall fall, I saw Europe being reunited.

  • I experienced Islamist terrorists occupying half the Middle East.