WASHINGTON – The German Ministry of Defense has notified citizens about potential disruptions in the country’s transit system, as Berlin implements NATO guidance for quickly moving troops to reinforce allies.
The announcement Thursday follows an overnight, multi-front push by Russian forces into Ukraine, shutting the door to the kind of diplomatic resolution that German leaders had vested much of their political capital in.
The ministry told Germans to be prepared for movements by the Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces, through “public space.” In addition, there could be transit restrictions because transport capacities on land, at sea and in the air must be set aside for NATO activation plans, according to the announcement.
The triggering of “national alarm measures,” as German defense officials called them, flows from a NATO catalog of steps, dubbed “crisis response measures,” activated by the alliance early Thursday. Those, in turn, are part of the NATO Crisis Response System, which addresses everything from conflict monitoring to mutual-defense operations under Article 5.
According to the German defense ministry, all levels of the Bundeswehr are tasked to make preparations for switching to a quick-reaction posture in case of a NATO Response Force deployment. Germany has pledged a contingent of almost 14,000 troops in that event.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine has led to a marked shift in tone in a country that has exhibited a deep-seated aversion to anything military in recent decades. German military Twitter was abuzz Thursday with analysts and politicians calling for a wholesale reexamination of the country’s defense capabilities and the money to be spent on them.
As it stands, however, parts of Germany’s armed forces remain in lackluster shape. German Army Chief of Staff Gen. Alfons Mais lamented the state of his service in a widely shared LinkedIn post on Thursday morning. “Imagine you wake up in the morning, and there’s a war in Europe. And the [Germany Army] finds itself more or less blank,” he wrote. “The options we can offer to policymakers in support of the alliance are extremely limited.”
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.