Defense Minister Franz Josef Strauss has never been quite frank about his plans for West Germany's defense contribution to NATO. His predecessor, Theodor Blank, promised to field twelve German divisions and 500,000 men by 1960, and commit all of them to NATO. But when Strauss took office last year, he began revising Blank's program and scaling down manpower targets. Last week, in an interview with the military analyst of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,
Strauss revealed that West Germany plans to provide NATO with an army of only 195,000 to 200,000 by the end of 1961.
Taking his cue from U.S. experiments, Strauss wants the new German army to be small, highly trained "pentomic" groups, geared to operate independently in the event of atomic war. Concurrently, Defense Minister Strauss plans to form a highly organized and well-armed "militia" army which will eventually be bigger than West Germany's NATO force but committed to "home defense" only.
Typically, Strauss's Defense Ministry two days later insisted that West Germany "would honor its commitments to NATO." But West Germany's partners had been given a clear indication of what Strauss would be proposing at the NATO council meeting next month in Bonn.