A Sight on European Defence

Debate on German armed forces model is going on, and now that a plan is afoot to suspend conscription, we can see more clearly what direction Germany wants to give to Bundeswehr. Whereas many thought that German armed forces were still stuck in the fiction of defence at the borders, the Chief of Defence is now proposing to suspend conscription.

What I found particularly interesting in the German new orientation is not, in fact, the final decision, to have professional armed forces. It is the way Germany perceives its role in Europe and within the Atlantic Alliance. In his report of 7th June 2010, and made available for the average citizen, German Chief of Defence expresses his views, and in a way defence staff views on the adaptation of Bundeswehr to the new challenges.

In this post, I will not come back on the vanished threat at our borders, but rather try and discriminate what role Germany wants to play in Europe and in the world with the support of this reform.

Rather often, I can read that Germany has idealized its international relations, dreaming of being for always the good guy. This is partly true. Making initially reference at the role of Germany, along with its allies to serve peace in the world, we are reminded that “Germany pursues its national interests”. That’s short, but clear. To make sure that everybody understands where the priorities are, in the list of the security interests, free and secure world trade comes before the defence of human rights.

That Bundeswehr will to be conceived to operate far beyond its borders is reaffirmed, but only when the national and Atlantic Alliance interests are affected, therefore the security of the country. In such conditions, I better understand the German reluctance to follow France in Africa: when there is no risk to have a conflict to spill over German interests, no need to be present.

For those who still expect a compliant Germany, ready to pay for any armament program, one can read that “German interest is, as for crisis management refers, under the UN umbrella and in association with partners in NATO and EU, to be able to contribute at a level corresponding with the political importance and the economic power of our country”.

Going to NATO, the report confirms that Germany fully agrees that the defence of the country takes place far beyond the borders. As well the will for cooperation with other European countries is reaffirmed, but obviously rather in a multilateral and case-by-case approach, than waiting for a consensus.

But the best piece is coming, for those who still had some doubts on the German level of ambition:

“Deutschland als bevölkerungsreichstes und wirtschaftsstärkstes Land der EU ist eine politische Führungsmacht in Europa. Es wird erwartet, dass Deutschland auf vielfältige Weise Verantwortung übernimmt “.

It does not help you that much? I can understand. Therefore here comes the translation:

“Germany, being the most populated country and having the strongest economy in the EU, is a leading political power in Europe. Germany is expected to take over its responsibilities in many forms”.

To conclude, I would say that the countries used to play the role of frontrunners in Defence issues will have to take care of Germany, and even to include the German claims in the definition of their defence policies and defence systems if they want to challenge this countries and remain at the first row of the influential powers.

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