German Security Policy

By Goebel, Peter | Strategic Forum, June 1999 | Go to article overview

German Security Policy


Goebel, Peter, Strategic Forum


Conclusions

* The Bundeswehr, a modern, professional, well-trained force of some 340,000 troops, is at the end of a restructuring process which started in 1992. This restructuring was accomplished even as Germany's armed forces successfully contributed to international peace operations.

* Universal conscription remains a structural feature of the German armed forces.

* The Crisis Reaction Forces, comprising some 50,000 volunteers from the active component, are Germany's readily available contribution for international military missions.

* The Main Defense Forces are the backbone of Germany's commitment to national and Alliance defense. Their strategic value lies in balancing the overall strategic situation in Europe.

* The new Special Forces Command is able to operate across the entire mission spectrum. It has proven its capabilities by bringing war criminals to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

* Future restructuring, perhaps triggered by budget constraints, by the increasing cost of new systems, and by the revolution in military affairs, will probably be an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary process.

Germany in Europe

Germany borders nine states, more than any other European country. It is and always has been, with some exceptions such as the period of the Third Reich and the Cold War, a transit country for people, goods, and traffic throughout Europe. Due to its location, Germany has been affected by the major political, cultural, and intellectual currents in Europe--be it the Reformation, the Enlightenment, democracy, socialism, or communism--and often those ideas were raised or developed by German thinkers and philosophers. This fact may be reflected in the thinking of some intellectual and political circles or in the programs of some political parties.

With more than 82 million inhabitants, Germany (after Russia) is the second most populous state and the strongest economic power in Europe. Its geographic location has enabled it to serve as a bridge, especially between the states of Western Europe and the new Central and Eastern European democracies. In view of its location and size and its economic strengths, Germany has a particular responsibility to bear for peace and understanding in Europe.

At the end of the East-West conflict, the Bundeswehr, the armed forces of a now unified Germany, faced the greatest challenges of any of NATO's armed forces. It had to:

* reduce its military strength from some 600,000 military personnel (Bundeswehr and National Peoples Army-NPA) to 370,000 by 1994 according to international agreements,

* reduce military material and equipment on a large scale under the CFE treaty,

* contribute to the German National Program of Unity by establishing new Bundeswehr units and agencies in the new German states, and

* integrate former NPA soldiers into the Bundeswehr.

At the same time, Germany's allies, friends, and the international community were strongly urging it--now unified, fully sovereign, and a member of the UN--to take part in international military peace operations. Step by step, Germany assumed its responsibilities and has participated in more than 20 such operations since 1991.

However, due to its past, Germany will not unilaterally undertake any military mission outside its national boundaries and, therefore, will not try to acquire the capacity to do so. NATO remains our preferred alliance for defense as well as for international military missions outside Germany.

Essential Aspects of German Foreign and Security Policy

With the end of the Cold War, no significant threat to either Germany or NATO's central region remains. However, a number of new crisis regions pose significant potential risks in and for Europe. The Alliance has reacted to those changes with the strategic concept agreed by the participating governments at the Rome summit in 1991. …

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