Ekkehard Brose has been President of the Federal Academy for Security Policy since October 2019 and was German Ambassador to Iraq from 2014-2016. Here he gives his personal opinion. Questions about German security policy will also be the subject of this year’s German Security Policy Forum on October 7 (www.baks.bund.de)
Don’t tell anyone they don’t exist, the highlights of the security policy debate in Germany. Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher’s demand that Mikhail Gorbachev be kept at his word. Joschka Fischer’s speech to his Greens on the political justification of the Kosovo mission and of course his famous “I am not convinced” about the US plans to invade Iraq.
Or the “Signal from Munich” six years ago: the polyphonic request by Federal President Joachim Gauck, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen that Germany should not stay on the sidelines, but rather contribute “earlier , more resolute and more substantial “.
And today? Security policy still has a niche existence in Germany. There is a lack of social impartiality in dealing with one’s own interests, with one’s own security provisions, the armed forces, including the arms industry. The government and the Bundestag are quite reluctant to deal with these bulky objects, military issues anyway.
The consideration of German sensitivities is over
This has surprised our partners many times. Now US President Donald Trump has become the proclaimer of a new truth: no more attention to German sensitivities and sensitivities. Germany should also be kind to hard security.
Meanwhile, the list of transatlantic issues is growing. The US does not want to bear the burden of leadership as it has done so far. Russia and China are challenging us on many fronts with renewed vehemence. Crisis construction sites also in Europe’s southern neighbors: the Mediterranean, Libya, Sahel, Somalia, Syria, Iraq.
Brexit will further weaken the EU’s already inadequate military capabilities. Central pillars of multilateral regulatory policy – the United Nations, international law, arms control, free world trade – are weakened by the headwinds of America First and a creeping renationalization of foreign policy. We suspect that even an election victory for Joe Biden won’t just reverse this nasty movie; too many authors wrote his script.
Realpolitik must be better communicated to civil society
So far, Germany has managed to align its foreign policy with a sense of proportion and fortune to the conditions of permanent crisis diplomacy. Careful handling of corona risk goes hand in hand with a policy that does not lose sight of the public interest. Perhaps it is because many people in the world hope for answers to the big questions from us, from Germany. The German public is aware of the increased expectations, but is looking for orientation.
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Our civil society does not like to hear Realpolitik’s “dirty song.” And it is true that there is no military solution to today’s complex crises. But it is also true that without the credible threat of hard power, diplomacy is all too often powerless. It is not easy to portray these relationships convincingly and to make safety policy socially plausible in a broad sense.
Today, in a challenging time with many risks, it is more necessary than ever. A united government and an active contribution from the Bundestag will determine whether this will be successful in the coming years.
The German government is currently playing a central role in talks to gauge possible progress in the Libyan crisis. As the only continental European cadre nation with 500 soldiers in Lithuania, Germany is contributing to NATO’s intensified defense efforts in the Baltic states and Poland. The coalition’s stabilization policy in Iraq bore a German-Iraqi signature from the outset.
There are examples of partnership leadership that can be built upon. What other concrete ideas and experiences can help move the topic of security out of its niche?
There is too much friction between the ministries
Certainly in security policy there is too much friction between the ministries. The next federal government should therefore lay down early and close coordination at ministerial level in a coalition agreement. The Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defense and Development Cooperation are always more successful in implementing a holistic security policy and communicating this to society when their bosses work together visibly.
This approach should also be reflected in the Bundestag. Why do the Committees on Foreign Relations, Defense, Europe and Economic Cooperation never meet? The critical public wants to be convinced of the motives, risks and objectives of our safety policy. That is why we urgently need the instrument of a parliamentary security debate – now!
The Bundestag must transfer control powers to the European Parliament
Determination sometimes takes precedence over unity in security policy. Germany should work with France and other partners on a case-by-case basis to form a “coalition of the determined”. In the long run, we cannot hide behind all kinds of worries. If there is an imminent blockade on important issues, such as the recent imposition of sanctions on Belarus, we need – as the next best solution – a core Europe that can act. The Bundestag also has room for maneuver in terms of European policy. Urgent progress in creating high-quality European capabilities, such as medical units or transport aircraft and helicopters, is possible. However, they require a willingness to transfer parliamentary powers of control for these troops from the Bundestag to the European Parliament. It lacks that.
The future of Europe requires a political return. Europe is primarily its Member States, its people. Only a Germany determined to commit and lead unconditionally in partnership will be able to strengthen Europe enough to preserve freedom of action in the increasingly fierce competition between powers. Germany no longer has a security niche. Nowhere.