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A New Bundeswehr: From National Sensitivity to Expeditionary Capability

Commentary, 8 November 2006
Europe
Kathleen Durkin analyses the new White Paper on German Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr (October 2006)

By Kathleen Durkin

The recent White Paper on German Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr represents a real shift in Germany’s outlook. For the first time since the Second World War Germany has enunciated a strategy that includes an expeditionary role, something Germans are traditionally extremely hesitant about due to Constitutional restrictions and post-war sensitivities.

In past years Germany’s allies were comforted by the nation’s reluctance to engage in foreign military endeavours but times have changed. Today Germany’s allies enthusiastically welcome a Germany willing to contribute to military missions abroad. Though the result of a domestic process, the new German Security Policy is, in part, a response to the concerns of allies and the growing operational involvement of NATO. It highlighted security concerns such as international terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and regional conflicts with language that is strikingly similar to the UK, France and even the United States.

While it should not be a huge surprise to discover that Germany identifies the same threats as its partners – indeed it had already recognised the dangers posed by international terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and regional conflicts by signing up to the European Security Strategy – for Germany to include them in a domestic defence document is a step forward.

The message is that Germany is now ready to consider military action, in the context of multinational operations, to tackle such threats. As Germany finally begins to restructure its military from a Cold War static defence force toward expeditionary capability, it is simultaneously emphasising the role of international organizations with NATO and the EU coming at the top of the list. This is good news for NATO and for the future of missions such as the ISAF operation in Afghanistan. At the EU level, Germany has already played a leading role in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme and it has now given notice that in future it might be willing to make a military contribution to EU efforts to counter such threats.

The Bundeswehr’s planned restructuring will be welcomed by France and Britain in the context of the developing European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). As one of the key players in the European Union, an enhanced German ability to contribute to EU military missions will be warmly received in Paris and London, but Germany’s allies will be equally eager to see investment in capabilities to match the tougher talking. As Germany attempts to move away from its post-war image and restructure the Bundeswehr, its progress will be welcomed by NATO and EU partners. However, as political debate within Germany surrounds the new security policy in a state that has a preoccupation with national welfare, the implementation of restructuring will be a difficult task to sell to the German public.

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