The German army has faced a shortage of equipment for years, but the situation has recently become so precarious that some soldiers took matters into their own hands.
On Tuesday, German broadcaster ARD revealed that German soldiers tried to hide the lack of arms by replacing heavy machine guns with broomsticks during a NATO exercise last year. After painting the wooden sticks black, the German soldiers swiftly attached them to the top of armored vehicles, according to a confidential army report which was leaked to ARD.
A defense ministry spokesperson said the use of broomsticks was not a common practice, and that the decision of the involved soldiers was “hard to comprehend.” According to the ministry, the armored vehicles were furthermore not supposed to be armed. It remains unclear how many broomsticks were substituted for machine guns.
The awkward revelation on Tuesday came at the worst possible moment for Germany’s defense ministry. The same day, Ukraine’s army was about to suffer a defeat in the town of Debaltseve, putting a renewed focus on the question whether Europe’s NATO allies would be able to manage the crisis militarily – without an American intervention, if necessary.
To make matters worse, the broom-equipped German soldiers belong to a crucial, joint NATO task force and would be the first to be deployed in case of an attack. Opposition politicians have expressed concerns about Germany’s ability to defend itself and other European allies, given that even some of the most elite forces lack basic equipment.