What to Expect Now From German Security Policy

by Felix F. Seidler. Felix is a fellow at the Institute for Security Policy, University of Kiel, Germany and runs the site Seidlers Sicherheitspolitik”. This article was published there at first.

After the vote, Angela Merkel is likely to govern at least until 2017. Although fundamental shifts are unlikely, that does not mean that everything remains the same. Especially not in case of jobs in Brussels. Moreover, Germany will face interesting arms procurement debates and may have to re-evaluate its place in Europe.

Angela MerkelHow to read the election result
Security policy was not an issue during this election campaign. The withdrawal from Afghanistan is in progress and was thus no topic of concern. Hotspots like Syria, Iran and Egypt may have occupied some time on German TV news, but did not do so in mind of the broader German public. The Eurohawk disaster affected only defense secretary Thomas De Maizière’s reputation, however nothing more than that. Therefore, security policy had no impact on the election’s outcome.

Actually, German voters turned right, but got a left wing majority in parliament. The Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the new eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) together gained 51 % of all votes. However, as FDP and AfD missed the 5 % threshold, Bundestag has now a left wing majority. Nevertheless, Merkel will keep governing. Most likely with the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), but maybe even with the Greens.

Programmatically, no Merkel-led coalition would not face serious difficulties in security policy. CDU, SPD and the Greens all-together support NATO and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), but have low appetite for an active (and costly) security policy in Europe’s neighborhood or even across the globe. After 13 years in Afghanistan, all parties will be heavily reluctant to large-scale expeditionary combat missions. Thus, security policy will not be one of the controversial topics during the coming coalition negotiations.

Interesting to watch might be the fight for a top job for a German in Brussels next year. It is clear that Germany will claim one of the five available positions (President of the European Parliament, President of the European Commission, President of the European Council, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, NATO Secretary General). Which seat Germany claims and which party will send a candidate will be subject to the coalition negotiations. There were rumors that CDU defense minister De Maizière could go for Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s job at NATO. However, it could also turn out that a Social Democrat or Green guy will run for Catherine Ashton’s position, as coalition negotiations produce all kinds of strange outcomes. We will see when we get there.

EurohawkNew drones, fighters and ships?
Do not expect rising numbers of troops. Either the Bundeswehr will remain about 185.000 soldiers or it will shrink further to 150.000 or even 120.000. They are missing enough recruits anyway. Plans for drastic cuts in Germany’s federal budget have already been leaked. If implemented, the Bundeswehr will once again have to do its share. Too few recruits could be used as an arguments for further reductions.

However, we will see three interesting procurement debates. First, the drone debate will re-surface. Since the early 2000s, all governing parties supported the decision to buy the Eurohawk. The need for drones is surely there. Thus, it is likely that there will be new UAV procurement decision before 2017.

Second, a topic not yet being discussed is the replacement of Germany’s aging Tornados. These are the Luftwaffe’s only jets who can contribute to NATO’s Nuclear Sharing. Hence, the question will be, if Germany acquires a new fighter-bomber, invests money in making some Eurofighters nuclear capable or leaves Nuclear Sharing after 2020. With an eye on the German budget and Europe’s financial situation, neither German parties nor the widely nuclear disarmament obsessed media and public will support spending money on aircraft to carry nuclear warheads. In consequence, prepare yourself for another fail of German alliance solidarity.

Third, the German Navy has repeatedly called for two Joint Support Ships (JSS), like the Dutch Rotterdam Class LPD. Such ships would be desirable. The German Navy contributes at the same time to NATO, EU and UN operations, while participating in international maneuvers and conducting smaller own SIGINT operations. One or two JSS would be a boost for Germany’s power projection ability and its contribution to international operations. However, it remains to be seen, whether there is enough political will and cash to go for JSS.

The Bundeswehr set up the Observation Post North in the south of Kunduz in 2010. Since then, the Germans were responsible for security in the Region. In 2013, they returned the responsibility for security to the Afghan Army.

The Bundeswehr set up the Observation Post North in the south of Kunduz in 2010. Since then, the Germans were responsible for security in the Region. In 2013, they returned the responsibility for security to the Afghan Army.

The Bundeswehr’s new missions
As said, due to Afghanistan, Germany’s political elite is very reluctant to new Bundeswehr missions. The basic rule: The larger the number of troops, the farer away the operational theatre or the more combat involved, the larger the German reluctance. For example, Berlin would ignore a UN call for 5.000 German soldiers to fight in the eastern Congo. Sending 50 officers for training or observation to same place close to Europe would probably get Merkel’s okay. Like in Mali and Somalia, Germany’s land forces after Afghanistan will find themselves mostly in training, observation and disaster relief missions.

Air operations other than NATO Air Policing will also find low support in Bundestag, parties, media and public. Only with a clear UN mandate, Germany might be willing to send fighters for combat missions. One more reason to send fighters, when called, is to get rid of the image of being an unreliable ally. However, as it did before regarding Libya, decisions like this will not depend on any strategy, but rather on the political situation at home.

Silent, but steadily, the German Navy has done a lot in international operations, especially in the Mediterranean. However, few have recognized that there is since 2002, although within different mandates, a permanent German naval presence in the Indian Ocean. The piracy offshore West Africa makes it likely that we will see the German navy also in the South Atlantic. As German naval missions yet involved few combat and are publicly not recognized, one can expect that Germany’s naval activities remain the same. Nevertheless, other than for friendly port visits or disaster relief, Berlin will not send warships or submarines east of Malacca.

EU consensus is necessary
We will see when the crisis returns, but right now, it seems that EU’s December summit is really going to talk about security policy (although schedules in Brussels can change very quickly). This is truly necessary, because in the recent past the EU as a security actor has been plagued by disaster (Libya, Mali, Syria, et.al.). Necessary to decide in December would be two things: To pave the way for new common strategic vision and to increase integration of the armed forces.

For the first, Germany, France and Britain would have to find some kind of geopolitical consensus. However, while Germany makes good business with the Chinese, Britain is reviving its alliance with Japan and talking about plans for troops East of Suez. How diverging the security policy cultures are between the Big Three, could be seen in Syria. In addition, a change of Merkel’s coalition partner will not change this, rather could make things even worse, as the SPD is very attached to Russia.

To make EU security policy work, Paris and London would have to step back from their activism and go a bit more German, while Berlin would have to give up its muddling through and go a bit more Anglo-French. Here, a new European Security Strategy might help, but not one decided in one night by the governments. Instead, EU should look what NATO has done 2009/10. The Alliance started an open and public process all over member and partner states to debate its new strategic concept. EU should take that as an example and start its own one- or two-year consensus-building debate process for a new European Security Strategy.

Increased integration of European armed forces is the only to prevent European from falling to partly into completely military irrelevance. Germany has already started deeper military integration with the Netherlands and Poland. Moreover, CDU parliamentarians like Andreas Schockenhoff and Roderich Kiesewetter have called publicly for even deeper cooperation of the Bundeswehr with other European forces. But no matter who joins Merkel’s government now and no matter, if the Bundeswehr has 185.000 or 120.000 troops, there are no fundamental changes in sight. Expect Germany to muddle through international security as it did before.

Finally, only a left wing government by SPD, Greens and Socialists would bring fundamental change to the German attitude towards military missions. In all other constellations, the approach will stay pretty much the same.

This entry was posted in English, Felix F. Seidler, International, Security Policy.

4 Responses to What to Expect Now From German Security Policy

  1. Uwe Voigt says:

    Mr Seidler seems not to know a lot about German integration in European defence. I do not have to tell you that Germany works not only with the Netherlands and Poland but also with France (German-France-Bigade), the EU-Battlegroups ( 1500 soldiers operating in a 6000km radius around Brussels), Euro-Corps with 80.000 men ( devided fom the command structure of NATO the biggest military unit in Europe), Mulitnationale Corps North East ( not only GE and Poland but also Denmark). The German Army is also bound in the NRF Force Pool, so there is not much potential left without the control of NATO and EU. Mrs.Merkel is right not to send German Soldiers into new areas of confilct. One has to know that Libya and Syria were not only international wars without declartion but information wars. Working for the German Bundeswehr on both topics I did not see ANY evidence neither about Gaddafis Air Strikes nore for the idea that Assad really is responsible for the use of WMD. Seidlers texts leak about inside information about the great picture and about the backgrounds of the information he uses. Mrs. Merkel recognises this information war and simply does not act on the basis of illusion. It is correct that the German Army is not allowed to act without the agreement of the Parliament and on the basis of an UN-Resolution but in the end ( Kosovo, contruction of the Petersberger Abkommen) there are ways to avoid this barricades.

    In the end Seidler seems not to know much about the newest German political history: Every single German goverment continued the policy of the Goverment before. Especially the left wing parties ( SPD and Grüne) have an affection to join new conflicts and are responsible for the strikes on yugoslavia ( Kosovo 1999- without any legitimation by the UN) and the construction of the Petersberger Abkommen about Afghanistan. Only the extrem left Party ( Linke) denies any support of war. That is the main fact why there is no leftist coalistion in the Bundestag. The eclection showed especially one fact: SPD and Green are not wanted anymore like they were before.

    Seidler even missed to describe the transformation of the Bundeswehr.

    If you want to get another picture I would be happy if you visit my blog or get in contact with me about my works. Seidler does not seem to be an Ex-Soldier with deeper insights….

    Kind regards

    Uwe Voigt

  2. Felix says:

    Dear Mr. Voigt,

    Thanks for your comment.

    As the title says, the article’s aim is to look ahead. Not to describe the past. Moreover, do you really think that someone who is blogging about security policy for four years is not aware about present integration of European armed forces? Come on…

    My case is, as outlined, that all efferots undertaken yet are not enough and that decisionmakers should take action towards even deeper integration. In addition, your comment has a very strong regard to the Bundeswehr, although my article is talking about “policy”. Yes, in the past SPD and Greens had an “affection to join conflicts”. Does this still apply on present and future? I doubt and I have not heard any statements from them calling for more German military involvement in the world.

    With regard to Syria – Mr. Westerwelle, surely not a war monger, said in his recent speach at the UN General Assembly that he believed Assad’s Regime used chemical weapons. If you disagree, you should consult Auswärtiges Amt for further clarifying information.

    You have written: “Seidlers texts leak about inside information about the great picture and about the backgrounds of the information he uses”.

    Not to mention that the hyperlinks in my text have obviously been ignored, interestingly, your own blogposts neither include any hyperlinks or references, nor do you have a linklist, which would provide readers deeper insights to the informations you are using.

    Finally, I want to make a personal note, as you have started your blog only a few weeks ago. If you want to make yourself a name among blogger collagues, there are much better ways than writing comments like “…seems not to know… seems not to know…I know it better, consult my blog…”; especially not, if you want to join the particular blog.

    Nevertheless, I am always happy to find new German security bloggers and I wish you a good start with your blog.


  3. Das kommt auch in Brüssel nur alle paar Jahre vor: Es gibt viele Posten zu vergeben. Nicht nur bei der EU, auch bei der Nato. Es geht um Macht, Einfluss und Aufgaben. Von Eitelkeit und Geld ist keine Rede. Und hier die ersten (Möchtegern-)Kandidaten:

    • Als NATO-Generalsekretär: Franco Frattini, einst italienischer Außenminister und Vertrauter von Regierungschef Silvio Berlusconi; Pieter De Crem, seit 2007 belgischer Verteidigungsminister; Radosław Sikorski, polnischer Aussenminister oder natürlich Thomas de Maizière, deutscher Verteidigungsminister.
    • Als Präsident der Europäischen Kommission: Martin Schulz (D, SPD).
    • Als Präsident des Europäischen Rates und als Hoher Vertreter der EU für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik: noch alles möglich.

    Quelle: “Die Postenjagd ist eröffnet“, Handelsblatt, 03.10.2013.

  4. Uwe Voigt says:

    Dear Felix,

    the fact that someone is blogging for four years and the other just started his blog is not a sign of quality and says nothing about his or her knowledge about the current European integration of the German military. You are using Schopenhauer, nice.

    The Auswärtiges Amt only follows the policy of the Goverment, as it did before Kosovo 1999. By now we have not a single proof for use of WMD use by president Assad…
    Your hint about the use of more hyperlinks and references is very good, thank you for that. In my scientific works I use them of course. This blog was made for military personel and interested people who ask me for clear statements not having always the time to look up links. But to reach a broader pubilc this should should be included as well.

    Actual I am living in Hamburg but lived in Kiel before. May be you are interested in having a beer or a coffee ? From time to time I am working for the Airforce or Navy nearby or visit friends so I am intown. May be we can lern from each other.

    With kind regards

    Uwe Voigt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *