Europe Reckons With Its Depleted Armies by Julian E. Barnes, Anton Troianovski and Robert Wall, Wall Street Journal
Soldiers in Germany’s Light Infantry Battalion 413 near the Baltic Sea coast complained last year that they didn’t have enough sniper rifles or antitank weapons or the right kind of vehicles.
During exercises, they told a parliamentary ombudsman, their unit didn’t have the munitions to simulate battle. Instead, they were told to imagine the bangs.
Across Europe, similar shortfalls riddle land, sea, air and cyber forces following years of defense cutbacks.
U.S. President Donald Trump last month irked European leaders when he berated them at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s new headquarters for insufficient defense spending and what he called unpaid military bills.
Current and former European officials were quick to point out that NATO members don’t owe dues to the U.S., but they acknowledged Mr. Trump wasn’t wrong: Europe lacks the capabilities to defend itself…
Fighting wars—and preventing them—doesn’t entail just bullets and bombs. Troops and heavy weapons must be moved to the front, requiring fleets of planes, helicopters and trucks. Arsenals must be ready to reload weapons, necessitating stockpiles of munitions. Armies must be ready to defend themselves and to counterattack, which requires specialized systems. In Europe, all are in short supply.
The U.S. has also cut back its troop strength, naval fleet and tank forces from their Cold War highs. But Europe’s offerings are far outmatched by America’s high-end military capabilities, including advanced fighter planes, armed drones, elite special-operation forces and aircraft carriers.
Despite cutbacks in the Pentagon’s budget in recent years, U.S. military spending far exceeds Europe’s, and American conventional forces are generally better trained and equipped than their European counterparts. The U.S. defense budget, $680 billion by NATO calculations, dwarfs the alliance’s European members, which spend a total of $242 billion…