Assuming Responsibility For Peace and Security

Enlarge image

Jointly Shaping the Realignment of the Bundeswehr

By Thomas de Maizière

Euro crisis and “Arab Spring“, two challenges limited to regions in name only, kept Germany and the world in suspense in 2011. The dynamics, complexity, and strategic imponderability of today’s security environment just as the high-speed changes associated with that have become apparent in impressive clarity.

In essence, and this applies to these examples, too, it is about recognizing the enormous strategic developments and about gearing the political decisions in response to them. This is not new at all. With the realignment of the Bundeswehr, Germany responds to the security challenges of today and tomorrow. Responsibly granting security in view of the tremendous variety of chances and risks of the beginning 21st century and the parallelism and interdependence of global developments demands many and diverse instruments and capabilities. To that end, a government needs to have various options of action. This includes modern and combat-ready armed forces.

Responsibility for Peace, Security, and Freedom

In the past year, the Bundeswehr again accomplished a lot. It proved well in the missions, it ensured peace and stability – including combat action and also at the risk of life and limb of the soldiers. And by initiating the realignment it has taken an important step to the future at the same time. The Defence Policy Guidelines (DPG – in German: “Verteidigungspolitische Richtlinien/VPR”) set the essential course, the decisions on capabilities, strengths, structures, and processes, the introduction of the voluntary military service, the concept of the reserve, and the accompanying reform programme. In 2012 it is important to collectively continue to pursue this course in the Bundeswehr. As a great export nation in the centre of Europe we are to a considerable degree dependent on the stability of the international system. It is in our very own interest to maintain this stability. As a member of the United Nations we are committed to a peaceful world. This requires taking on responsibility in order to restore breaches of peace, to assist in emergency situations, to support our allied partners or to help establish values like freedom and rule of law. Wealth has its obligations: We will have to prepare for the fact that our contribution will be in demand in future much more than today, that we have to assume additional commitments. This may entail that the employment of our armed forces is sought after even though our direct national security interests may not be affected at a first glance; not everywhere and at any time, but in principle. The days of chequebook diplomacy are over. We pursue a culture of responsibility, which conceives security comprehensively and as a common task – in national and international respects. In interdepartmental ways and together with our partners in the United Nations, NATO, and the European Union we will be able to shape foreign and security policy both effectively and responsibly. Germany contributes significantly and effectively to this. The Bundeswehr does this every day, presently with more than 7,000 servicewomen and servicemen in eleven missions on three continents. As part of the international community Germany has been bearing responsibility in Afghanistan for ten years now. In concert with out partners we have made great and tangible progress there. Even though some ambitious goals had to yield to matter-offact realism: today the Afghans themselves are assuming the responsibility for their own security and for their country – district after district, province after province. The transfer of the security responsibility into Afghan hands is the consistent step in the direction of a sovereign and assured future of Afghanistan. For the Bundeswehr and for Afghanistan this year will thus be a guiding one. For the first time in 2012 and thereafter in additional phases we are going to reduce our military engagement by 2014. This does not automatically mean that Afghanistan can do without any military support by the international community. Especially in the field of training of the Afghan security forces there will surely be a demand for that even after 2014. Of decisive importance, however, is that the further development in Afghanistan is increasingly taking on a civilian appearance. Over the years, many actors, but also some ministries and agencies have become accustomed to the fact that the Bundeswehr has been undertaking their tasks in areas of operation, such as drilling of wells or building of bridges. The armed forces are cerand tainly capable of doing this if it should be required. But it ought to be an exception. Armed forces should principally concentrate on their core task, the military mission. The employment of armed forces for the stabilisation of a country can nothing but create the framework for other civilian instruments to become effective. This is also emphasised by the recent events in Kosovo. A lesson learned from Afghanistan and Kosovo reads therefore: Tasks and responsibility within the scope and concept of networked security need to be defined more accurately in future in order to comprehensively guarantee security, stability, and development. We have to jointly work on that within the Federal Government.