Discussion with Members of the Armed Services Committee

March 4, 2013

On March 4, 2013, AGI, in conjunction with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, hosted a discussion with Members of the German Bundestag’s Armed Forces Committee. The topics covered included the current state of European security; Germany’s relationship to NATO; and Germany’s role in Mali, Syria, Afghanistan, and Asia.

As the discussion evolved, two different perspectives emerged.  The first perspective supported the idea of maintaining and enhancing Germany’s commitment to NATO missions and European security. Germany’s largest current troop commitment of 4,800 is in Afghanistan as part of the NATO mission, a very unpopular conflict among the German population. As the mission prepares to wind down, Germany must begin developing proposals for its allies that outline its role in the region post 2014. The government has committed to supporting training missions and has promised to continue funding civil aid. Outside of Afghanistan, Germany has shown solidarity with NATO and regional security through its mandates that support the French-led mission in Mali and by stationing German troops in Turkey near the Syrian border. The rest of Europe, like Germany, should enhance its commitment to NATO by pooling and sharing common capacities.

The second perspective purported reducing Germany’s global military engagements. Germany’s security role should be limited to “blue helmet” UN peacekeeping missions. It should totally withdraw from Afghanistan and should not consider any engagement in Syria—or any other combat missions. Furthermore, Germany has no role in Mali. As a former French colony, Mali’s stability is France’s responsibility. However, this perspective does not negate the need to better integrate EU and NATO security goals, as integration would increase the efficiency of military endeavors.

Though the perspectives disagree on the scope and role of the Bundeswehr, they agree that strategic efforts should focus more on building up local capacity, rather than intervention. This segued into a discussion of Germany’s role in Asia—or lack thereof. As the U.S. leads the “Asian pivot” away from Europe, Germany will not feel pressure or desire to militarily support its allies. Due to Germany’s cordial economic relationship with China, the government will resist any military action that may irritate Sino-German relations. Germany’s military priorities lie geographically closer to Europe in areas such as the Balkan and MENA (Middle East/North Africa) regions. Unlike the U.S., Germany is not a global military power and should therefore not flex its military muscle in the same capacity.

Germany has generally expanded its military capacity over the last twenty years and continues to support global operations within its constrained budget.  Despite this progress, Germany’s military security remains a balancing act between remaining uninvolved and supporting its allies. An exit strategy, therefore, is an important component for determining Germany’s security-related responsibilities. Though its role remains limited, the German military is dedicated to NATO, European security, and the transatlantic relationship.


Kimberly Frank