Episode 48: The Future of Germany’s Security and Defense Policy

Ben Hodges

Center for European Policy Analysis

A native of Quincy, Florida, Lieutenant General (Retired) Frederick Benjamin "Ben" Hodges graduated from the United States Military Academy in May 1980 and was commissioned in the Infantry.

After his first assignment as an Infantry Lieutenant in Germany, he commanded Infantry units at the Company, Battalion and Brigade levels as the 101st Airborne Division and in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. He also served in an operational assignment as Director of Operations, Regional Command South, in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Lieutenant General (Retired) Hodges has also served in a variety of Joint and Army Staff positions to include Tactic Instructor at the Infantry School; Chief of Plans, 2nd Infantry Division in Korea; Aide-de-Camp to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe; Army Congressional Liaison Officer; Task Force Senior Observer-Controller at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, LA: Coalition/Joint – 3 (CJ3) of Multi-National Corps-Iraq in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM; Chief of Staff, XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg; and Director of the Pakistan Afghanistan Coordination Cell on the Joint Staff, Chief of Legislative Liaison for the United States Army, and Commander, NATO Allied Land Command. His last Military assignment was as Commander, United States Army Europe from 2014 to 2017.

Lieutenant General (Retired) Hodges holds the Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies at the Center for European Policy Analysis.

Jeffrey Rathke

Jeff Rathke

President of AGI

Jeffrey Rathke is the President of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC.

Prior to joining AICGS, Jeff was a senior fellow and deputy director of the Europe Program at CSIS, where his work focused on transatlantic relations and U.S. security and defense policy. Jeff joined CSIS in 2015 from the State Department, after a 24-year career as a Foreign Service Officer, dedicated primarily to U.S. relations with Europe. He was director of the State Department Press Office from 2014 to 2015, briefing the State Department press corps and managing the Department's engagement with U.S. print and electronic media. Jeff led the political section of the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur from 2011 to 2014. Prior to that, he was deputy chief of staff to the NATO Secretary General in Brussels. He also served in Berlin as minister-counselor for political affairs (2006–2009), his second tour of duty in Germany. His Washington assignments have included deputy director of the Office of European Security and Political Affairs and duty officer in the White House Situation Room and State Department Operations Center.

Mr. Rathke was a Weinberg Fellow at Princeton University (2003–2004), winning the Master’s in Public Policy Prize. He also served at U.S. Embassies in Dublin, Moscow, and Riga, which he helped open after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mr. Rathke has been awarded national honors by Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as several State Department awards. He holds an M.P.P. degree from Princeton University and B.A. and B.S. degrees from Cornell University. He speaks German, Russian, and Latvian.



Germany is essential to transatlantic security, a fact that grows more important with rising security challenges in Europe. Berlin’s allies have long called on the country to play a bigger role in European security and defense. In the coalition agreement of the incoming German government, the three parties identify some new initiatives and reaffirm the foundations of German security. They outline a long-term goal of spending three percent of GDP on international engagement (including spending on defense, development, and diplomacy), they commit to equipping the Bundeswehr with the capabilities and equipment it will need for today’s security challenges, and they affirm Germany will acquire new fighter aircraft (but with a vague reference to their role in NATO’s nuclear policy).

On this episode of The Zeitgeist, AGI president Jeff Rathke discusses Germany’s security and defense policy with Lieutenant General (ret.) Ben Hodges, Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies at the Center for European Policy Analysis and former Commanding General of the United States Army Europe. Is the new government’s three percent networked spending goal adequate? Does Germany need not only to build the readiness of its existing defense forces but also to acquire new capabilities? How does the country view its role in the NATO defense alliance and in international security? Is the incoming government prepared to address emerging defense needs while AI, cyber, and space security rapidly transform the nature of modern warfare?


Jeff Rathke, President, AGI


Ben Hodges, Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies, Center for European Policy Analysis

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.