The white paper on security policy and the future of the German army, the Bundeswehr, which was presented in Berlin on Wednesday, will cause a stir. Not just because it is the first of its kind in 10 years, but because it is different from all its predecessors and reflects a changed political understanding.
White papers usually begin with a description of the status quo or “threat analysis,” and on the basis of this, it deduces the measures required as security precautions.
But not this one. It begins with a depiction of Germany as an economically powerful country that is prepared to accept responsibility and leadership. That is the view of Germany’s role in the world as it was set out at the beginning of 2014 at the Munich Security Conference.
The definition of German interests is in keeping with the country’s self-image in terms of security policy and spells it out clearly, not vaguely, as has so often been the case. It includes the maintenance of a world order based on rules, as well as economic prosperity and the freedom of world trade. It is worth remembering that a similar formulation about world trade prompted so much vilification on a former German president that he resigned.
Russia had shown in Crimea that it was prepared to pursue its interests by force and place in question the whole European security order.
The description of the status quo only comes in the third section under the heading “security policy environment.” And the language is clear: Russia had shown in Crimea that it was prepared to pursue its interests by force and place in question the whole European security order. This will be met on the one hand by a mixture of dialog and sectoral cooperation, but also on the other with a strong collective deterrent and defense. There follows a whole list of acute dangers – terrorism, cyber-crime, migration, climate change – all of which can only be dealt with in cooperation with allies.
The wording concerning Germany’s role in both NATO and the European Union is particularly important. The statement that “alliance solidarity is part of Germany's 'raison d‘état' ” is not just extremely important in its own right. It also helps to dispel irritations in Eastern Europe, which have been in evidence within NATO in recent weeks.
There is also a tangible difference from former white papers in the section on the future of the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr. Whereas in 2006 the Bundeswehr was still vaguely classified as part of the “overall state security precautions,” the latest white paper says right from the beginning that the Bundeswehr has to make its contribution to implementing strategic priorities of German security policy. Period!
That is what other countries call national security strategy: the security strategy of a self-confident country aware of its duties and limitations.
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