According to the German outlet Die Welt, the country is running out of ammunition after months of sending supplies to Ukrainian military forces. This didn't take long, however, because Germany's military has notoriously been under-equipped for decades following the end of the Cold War, thanks to the protection Berlin derives from the United States.
But not only is Germany depleting its ammo stocks, but manufacturing more ammunition will be a problem because many of the supplies come from China, and exports from the Asian economic behemoth are down.
German ammunition manufacturers recently warned about the waiting period for orders of cotton linters from China — a crucial component for propelling charges for small guns and artillery — has tripled to up to nine months.
German ammunition makers flagged this information at a recent defense symposium near Munich. The German government hosted a roundtable discussion with ammunition manufacturers on November 28; however, no specific outcomes were made public.
Industry sources said that all European ammunition producers depend on China for cotton linters, even though it is a commodity produced and traded globally.
According to Wolfgang Hellmich, the defense affairs spokesman for the currently in-power Social Democratic Party in parliament told Asia Nikkei that major shortages of supplies Germany obtains from China to manufacture ammunition, and other military equipment, have become a big problem. He noted specifically that ammunition and other systems that require a certain kind of steel are especially problematic.
At a panel discussion regarding the ammo shortage, he said German government officials talked about how to alleviate ammo supply bottlenecks rapidly and that all appropriate personnel were working tirelessly to ensure there were not significant gaps in inventory.
Management officials at MEN Metallwerk Elisenhuette, a German ammunition maker, have repeatedly lambasted the government for being much slower than most other European nations, all of which are also NATO members, to place orders with the defense industry.
"The Bundeswehr, the German military, has realized that its stocks would be utterly insufficient for such high-intensity conflict in the wake of Russia’s daily artillery shelling of tens of thousands of rounds into Ukraine," The Eurasian Times noted, citing the German publication Die Welt.
It's not as if the German government isn't making an effort, however. Following Russia's late February invasion of Ukraine, the SPD-led administration of Chancellor Olaf Scholz established a 100 billion euro ($106 billion) fund to modernize the country's ill-equipped military. But "the administration is in a dilemma because Germany is simultaneously providing ammunition to Ukraine’s military, including ammo for machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, and multiple rocket launchers," The Eurasian Times noted.
Timothy Heath, a senior international defense researcher at RAND Corporation, remarked that Berlin's ammo and military equipment shortfalls “reflects the globalized nature of production. Department of Defense policymakers are trying to persuade the companies to reduce or eliminate their reliance on Chinese suppliers.”
What's more, the Ukraine-related shortages are causing Germany to shirk its obligation to NATO.
"Germany is running out of ammunition as it transfers armaments into Ukraine in light of the prolonged conflict. Germany is far from meeting the alliance’s requirement that each member keeps enough weapons to last 30 days of battle," The Eurasian Times reported. "Furthermore, Berlin’s need for weapons has increased due to the federal government providing Ukraine with weapons from the Bundeswehr stockpile."
Other NATO countries, especially the United States, have put themselves in a similar predicament -- reduced weapons stocks for their own defense, which, for Washington, is especially problematic given that China is just biding its time until it launches an invasion of Taiwan.