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Integration of East German Armed Forces

Established in 1956, the National People's Army (Nationale Volksarmee--NVA) of the German Democratic Republic was considered one of the most formidable elements of the Warsaw Pact's armed might. It comprised about 170,000 personnel in all three services, which could quickly be expanded to a mobilization strength of 350,000. NVA land forces consisted of six standing divisions and five reserve divisions. The army was equipped with some of the Warsaw Pact's most modern weapons, as well as enormous stockpiles of ammunition. The NVA's structure and training followed Soviet lines. Detailed war plans called for the NVA to combine with other Warsaw Pact forces in a powerful and sudden assault against NATO's central region to overrun Western Europe in blitzkrieg fashion. The offensive use of tactical nuclear weapons was assumed.

Although the NVA's weapons and vehicles were maintained at a high level of operational readiness, signs of deterioration and personnel preparedness in manpower were evident even before the opening of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. Once the Wall opened, many reservists and some conscripts fled the country, disappearing into West Germany. Authority and morale declined as ordinary soldiers rebelled against strict discipline and military exercises. When soldiers' councils sprang up, NVA commanders bowed to pressure to allow soldiers to wear civilian clothes off post and enjoy relaxed discipline, reduced training time, and an end to political indoctrination. The morale of officers facing the loss of careers and status began to waver as the internal situation worsened and the prospect of unification grew.

Until mid-1990 the leadership of the NVA still hoped that the force might survive as a distinct entity in a reconstituted German state. As a result of the summit agreement between West German chancellor Helmut Kohl and Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev in July 1990, however, the Soviet Union withdrew its objections to a united Germany's membership in NATO. The NVA was disbanded upon unification, and its facilities and resources were taken over by the Bundeswehr.

On October 3, 1990, the date of unification, control over all NVA commands and border troops passed to the newly created Bundeswehr Eastern Command. The command's function was to deactivate unneeded units, to dispose of surplus matériel and weapons, and to extend support to the withdrawing Soviet forces. The command was terminated after nine months, and the various elements of the former NVA were transferred to the three chiefs of staff and the medical service corps of the Bundeswehr.

The 90,000 NVA service personnel and 47,000 civilian employees who remained were merged into the Bundeswehr on a preliminary basis. It was decided that up to 50,000 of the former NVA troops would be retained as part of the Bundeswehr. Of 14,600 NVA officers, 5,100 were permitted to enter the Bundeswehr for a transition period of two years. Some 70 percent of these--mostly junior officers--would be retained after approval for regular Bundeswehr service and screening to eliminate former members of East Germany's State Security Service (Staatssicherheitsdienst--Stasi). Many of the 25,000 NVA enlisted personnel were assigned to a three-month basic training course with West German units. The dilapidated condition of NVA barracks, mess halls, and other facilities necessitated large expenditures to bring them up to minimal Bundeswehr standards.

All 190 NVA general officers were retired, as were all colonels and many other officers over age fifty-five. Most of those retained were no older than thirty-five. Many former NVA officers were demoted by one or two ranks if they were younger than officers of corresponding ranks in the Bundeswehr. Although East German troops had been paid at a lower scale than their West German counterparts, parity was achieved by 1994. Junior NVA officers, unused to exercising initiative, had to be trained in a new doctrine of command.

A major effort was needed to instill democratic principles of leadership and a new perspective on historical and political questions. NVA officers had been indoctrinated with communist beliefs and had been considered among the most politically reliable elements of the East German state. Although forced to acknowledge that Marxist theories had diverged from social and economic realities in East Germany, many still tended to view communism as a valid, if utopian, political philosophy.

After absorption of the East German armed forces, the six active NVA divisions were converted to brigades, with three brigades in each of two divisions. One division was headquartered at Neubrandenburg and the other at Leipzig. Both divisions became part of IV Corps, which has its headquarters at Potsdam.

During a transition period, the brigades operated Soviet BMP armored vehicles, but Soviet tanks were replaced by Leopards. In the air force, the division at Eggerdorf controlled two fighter wings of Phantom F-4Fs and Soviet MiG-29s, with the Soviet aircraft to be gradually reduced in number. The former East German naval base at Warnemünde on the Baltic Sea was developed as the home port for fast-attack missile craft.

Large quantities of East German weapons were turned over to the Bundeswehr, including 2,300 main battle tanks, 7,800 armored vehicles, 2,500 artillery pieces, 400 combat aircraft, fifty attack helicopters, and many missile and rocket systems. More than 300,000 tons of ammunition had been stockpiled. With exceptions that included MiG-29s, BMP infantry fighting vehicles, and some transport helicopters, the Bundeswehr decided against trying to integrate former NVA weapons into its inventory. Ceilings imposed by the CFE Treaty, as well as problems of convertibility and safety, ruled out the wholesale absorption of the weapons. After first being concentrated in special depots, massive stocks of equipment and munitions, except for a few items transferred to other countries, were slated for destruction--a task of unprecedented magnitude.

Defense Budget

From about 1960 until 1990, the West German defense budget rose at a remarkably steady rate, just under 3 percent a year in real terms. If NATO definitions of defense expenditures are applied, outlays remained constant during the 1980s before rising about 4.7 percent in real terms in 1990 and then declining by 6.8 percent in 1991. At the same time, defense spending as a ratio of the overall federal budget decreased from 11.2 percent in 1979 to 9.5 percent in 1989. Outlays for defense also tended to decline as a proportion of the gross national product (GNP--see Glossary), from 3.3 percent in 1979 to 2.8 percent in 1989.

The Bundeswehr frequently experienced difficulty securing adequate funds to maintain personnel and equipment at desired levels because of the disinclination of the post-World War II generation to earmark resources for the buildup of the military establishment. The absence of any palpable threat after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, combined with the unexpectedly high costs of integrating eastern Germany into the Federal Republic, generated even stronger pressures to make deep cuts in defense spending.

From a high of DM57.5 billion (US$35.6 billion) in 1990, the defense budget was scaled back to about DM52.0 billion (US$34 billion) in both 1991 and 1992, to DM49.6 billion (US$31.8 billion) in 1993, and to DM47.2 billion (US$28.6 billion) in 1994. According to Ministry of Defense plans, the annual defense budget should level off at about DM48 billion (US$32 billion) through the year 2006.

Announced cuts in the procurement budget are expected to produce savings of more than DM72 billion in the period between 1992 and 2006. Replacement of the Leopard 2 main battle tank was canceled, and the number of Leopard 2s to be upgraded was reduced. A replacement for the Jaguar antitank vehicle was deleted, and fewer Marder infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled howitzers will be introduced. Also, a smaller number of the new Franco-German Tiger PAH-2 attack helicopters will be acquired than originally planned. To effect additional savings, the construction schedule for new frigates and submarines has been stretched out.

According to data compiled by the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), Germany's military expenditures per capita in 1993 (US$454) were above the NATO Europe average (US$416) and below those of France (US$740) or Britain (US$587). United States expenditures per capita were US$1,153 in the same year. Expressed as a percentage of GNP, military expenditures in 1993 (2.2 percent) were lower than the NATO Europe average (2.7 percent). The 1992 share of military spending in central government expenditures (6.3 percent) was also below the NATO 1992 average of 6.5 percent.

Data as of August 1995

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