Germany's first national defense strategy references Russia as a temporary threat, and German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told ERR in an interview that there can be no doubt Russia is a threat at least for the coming years. The minister added that Berlin estimates the war in Ukraine will last for a long time.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced an additional defense fund of €100 billion following the start of Russia's war. Have you spent it and on what?
It would be curious to see €100 billion spent in a single year, but we will have spent or tied up in contracts 66 percent of it by the end of this year, which is very good.
Part of it is tripling ammunition production, but what else?
Everything. It's new aircraft, ammunition, new tanks. Everything we need will be procured with that special fund, which is complemented by the normal budget.
When signing the contract with Estonia and Latvia for the IRIS-T procurement, you said at the press conference that Germany's defense spending will reach 2 percent of GDP next year and perhaps even more. What is the target? Is it 3 percent or more?
There is no target. We need [to make] every effort to reach 2 percent every year, but I'm sure we will go beyond in the next years.
You are preparing to station a brigade in Lithuania. What are the plans, when will we see the first buildings go up?
We will have a roadmap for that by end of November or early December by which time we will know more or less which steps need to be taken.
For example, infrastructure. We need barracks, depots, exercise areas, infrastructure for our soldiers' families. It is a real challenge for Lithuania, as well as for us. It's unprecedented for the German Bundeswehr. We have never deployed a full brigade abroad. We will see the brigade built up over the coming years, beginning probably at the end of 2024.
Are German soldiers ready to go there and live in Lithuania?
That is the aim, but we are not talking about that yet, as we are building up the infrastructure and the framework. Of course, one part of that framework is making it possible for our soldiers to go there, and to go there voluntarily.
Let us talk also of the Zeitenwende and your national security strategy. In it, you imply that Russia is a temporary threat? How do you see Russia?
Well, as a temporary threat.
Could it also be a friend at some point?
That would be like looking into a crystal ball. I don't know that, but for the next years at least – I don't know how long – it is a threat and there's no doubt about it. We will not allow any doubt about that.
Ukraine is saying they do not have enough ammo or special weapons, like the Taurus [missile system]. When will they get those things, considering that the U.S. has already decided, presumably, to give them ATACMS missiles?
As you say, presumably. I have no confirmation of that at this time. But anyway, we are the second biggest supporter of Ukraine after the U.S. We do everything, we delivered tanks, we delivered air defense systems, like Patriot and IRIS-T. Those systems save Ukrainian lives night and day. We delivered howitzers, artillery etc. We are really supporting Ukraine. Sometimes, our decisions take time so we can be sure they are the right ones.
Only providing the necessary equipment gradually amounts to prolonging the war.
This is our responsibility together with our partners and allies to guarantee and achieve that Ukraine will be supported by all of us sustainably, not just in the short run.
So, it will be long-time support?
We need to count on that, yes.
What about the possibility of Germany producing ammo with Estonia in Estonia?
We talked about that, and we will talk about it again later. We have to explore in which fields more cooperation and industrial production in Estonia would be possible. But this is not primarily a question for the German government but rather its defense industry, which is privately owned.
But if the German government asks them to produce more?
That's what I'm saying. We have to sit down and talk about the possibilities.
Editor: Marcus Turovski