“Politics cannot end when soldiers fulfill their duties”

German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere holds a keynote speech on Bundeswehr reform at the DGAP

14/06/2012 | 13:00 - 14:30 | DGAP Rauchstr. 17 10787 Berlin | Invitation only

Speech

Category: Germany, Security

“Today’s security challenges call for a new emphasis on professional capabilities,” said German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere. The realignment of the Bundeswehr is his response to this challenge. Defense no longer means just national defense, but also the defense of alliances as well as international crisis prevention and crisis management.

Foto: Dirk Enters

“Today’s security challenges call for a new emphasis on professional capabilities,” said de Maiziere to about 300 guests at the German Council of Foreign Relations (DGAP) in Berlin. The realignment of the Bundeswehr is his response to this challenge. Today, since Germany is surrounded by partners and lies peacefully in the middle of Europe, security policy no longer needs to be thought of geographically. Defense no longer means just national defense, but also the defense of alliances as well as international crisis prevention and crisis management. “Developments from afar can also demand German action,” said de Maiziere in his keynote speech.

The Bundeswehr must be able to react to a broad spectrum of potential conflicts and deployments. “Despite the adjustments and reforms of past years, the Bundeswehr is still not adequately developed for today’s security conditions,” said the minister. The new Bundeswehr needs highly professional, self-sustaining units with modern equipment. In contrast to other partners, he includes multi-year deployments in his understanding of sustainability. “These units must be able to react quickly and flexibly to changing situations,” according to de Maiziere.

Because depth and breadth is not affordable, German forces must “be interoperable” with those of its allies. The strengthening of international cooperation is thus an essential principle of the realigned Bundeswehr. “Overcoming national egoism takes much time and energy,” said the minister. But as long as the Ghent Initiative and the NATO Summit in Chicago work to adopt the concept of “smart defense,” the will to cooperate will strengthen among states. “As a member of the international community, Germany will increasingly be called upon to take over military responsibility in the future,” said de Maiziere. This close cooperation will enable the Bundeswehr to concentrate on its core capacities. “Anything less would lead to a shrinking room for maeuver.” If such relinquishing is used intelligently, it could also be innovative.

De Maiziere spoke of the “EU’s moment.” “International cooperation must also become the norm in European arms policy,” he claimed. This calls for an open dialogue between states and industry – on both the national and European levels. “Improved European capabilities would not only strengthen the EU. As a European contribution, it would also strengthen NATO.” But it is also clear that smart defense will not save any money in the short term. “It will only spare us from future expenditures,” according to the defense minister.

De Maiziere also identified limits to the Bundeswehr’s duties. In the past, the Bundeswehr constantly had to take over the tasks of other departments, NGOs, or organizations. “Politics cannot end when soldiers fulfill their duties,” said de Maiziere. “Networked security means that all political fields need to recognize and take seriously their own security responsibilities.”   

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