German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen cancelled a trip to the United States to meet with her counterpart Jim Mattis on Tuesday in order to call an emergency meeting with German military leaders after a series of scandals have rocked the German military over the last year.
The most recent and prominent incident is over a terrorist plot uncovered within the ranks of the German Bundeswehr. A young German officer had apparently plotted to attack several government targets while leaving a trail back to his fraudulent status as a Syrian refugee. Another man was arrested in connection with the German lieutenant and was found to have explosives.
After closer examination of the German officer, identified so far as only “Franco A.”, it appears he has a long and not so-subtle history with far-right wing opinions, and possessed photos of Nazi-era soldiers and Swastikas. The public use of Swastikas and other Nazi imagery is illegal in Germany, and almost certainly beyond taboo for a member of the military to be caught with.
“We have to ask systematically how someone with such clear right-wing extremist views, who writes a master’s paper with clearly nationalistic ideas … could continue to pursue a career in the Bundeswehr,” von der Leyen told reporters.
Von der Leyen has had a rocky past year with senior leaders in the Germany military, initially citing the slew of extremist and sexual harassment and assault cases a problem with military leadership, who in turn angrily clarified that leadership goes all the way “to the top.” Von der Leyer has since taken full responsibility for the behavioral and professionalism issues inside the Germany military.
According to German military intelligence, since 2011 it has identified 275 cases of suspected right-wing extremism inside the military, with 53 in 2017 alone.
And it isn’t just right-wing extremism like the case with Franco A. Last year, it was reported that 22 Bundeswehr soldiers had traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight for ISIS. They had originally joined in order to gain weapons training and experience for jihadist activities.
Earlier this year, it was uncovered that heinous sexual assault occurred with German Army soldiers during medical training. Von der Leyen fired a senior officer over the hazing that was occurring on a joint base used by German and other NATO forces.
In addition to cultural and behavioral problems within the ranks, the German government is attempting to attract younger recruits by offering better pay, family care plans, and even a reality television series that follows a number of young Germans as they enlist and begin basic training.
Image courtesy of Frankfurter Allgemeine