Under Bundeswehr Command
Germany and the Netherlands will merge their military forces closer together, according to the declaration of intent signed in Berlin last week by the German Minister of Defense and his Dutch counterpart. This is referred to as a "new quality" in bilateral military cooperation. In fact, the declaration of intent goes beyond stipulating that the two countries coordinate their armament and maintenance more closely, meaning, for example, that, in the future, their boxer armored fighting vehicles will be serviced together, and that they will coordinate the procurement of MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance) drones, according to the document. They also seek to integrate elements of the Dutch military into German military structures. For example, the navies of both countries will train together and their militaries will intensify their common air transport. The integration of an entire Dutch brigade into a German unit is one of the declaration's three dozen cooperation projects. According to the German Defense Ministry, the 11th Dutch Airborne Brigade, with its 2,100 soldiers, will be "subordinate to the Rapid Reaction Force Division." Accordingly, Dutch soldiers will enter combat under Bundeswehr orders.
The German-Dutch military cooperation, which, according to Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière, should be further intensified, is the result of many years of development. Already on August 30, 1995, the first German-Dutch Corps was commissioned in the West German city of Muenster. In November 2002, the staff at that base became NATO's certified "High Readiness Force Headquarters." The German-Dutch Corps can now field up to 80,000 combat troops. The bilateral cooperation has been put to the test in the western alliance's operations around the world. In Yugoslavia, but mainly in Afghanistan and, to a certain extent, at the Horn of Africa, the armed forces of these two countries have been intervening in close coordination with one another over the past few years. In the course of these operations, the former commander of the Bundeswehr's Joint Operations Command, Lt.-Gen. Rainer Glatz had particularly distinguished himself. April 16, he was awarded the highest medal of the Dutch Army (the "Ereteke voor verdienste in goud") which is awarded for special merit in support of the Dutch Armed Forces.
On the eve of the German-Dutch accord, the German Defense Minister and his Polish counterpart had also concluded a declaration of intent on the consolidation of military cooperation. This statement was focused on naval cooperation between the two countries, which had also had a long development, and is now being massively intensified. According to the German Navy, 28 projects in all, were agreed upon, ranging "from joint training," "cooperation in ship-building," all the way to "joint surveillance of the Baltic Sea." "Joint (...) missions" are also being prepared. The plans are due to be implemented this month. Also in this case, German command is totally undisputed. As the Polish Minister of Defense stated, the cooperation with the Bundeswehr is "particularly important for the conceptional development of the Polish Navy."
Germany at the Crossroads
The strategic plan behind Berlin's recent initiatives can be gleaned from analyses of military policy specialists. They explain that Germany risks appreciably losing influence in global policy. As the USA is turning its attention toward East Asia, it is relying less on military cooperation with Germany. Simultaneously, Paris and London are intensifying their military cooperation within the EU, and - with Washington's assistance - are systematically marginalizing Berlin. This can be seen very clearly in the interventions in Libya and Mali. Germany is standing "at a security policy crossroads," according a text raising eyebrows in transatlantic circles. The text was published in February by an associate of the Institute for Security Policy at the University of Kiel (ISPK). Berlin has the choice: "make security policy initiatives in Europe or fade into irrelevance."
The text further explains that there are various possibilities of regaining the offensive in military policy. For example, the decision to leave the batteries of patriot missiles in Turkey permanently could be taken - within the framework of multinational "initiatives for a NATO Missile Defense Center." This is not needed for the war in Syria, but rather because of Iran's arms buildup, whose "missiles and nuclear programs" could call for a future "deployment of patriots to Turkey." Placing more importance on naval forces would be advantageous. "In the North Atlantic, the North and the Baltic Seas" they are "no longer needed today." However, "expeditionary missions in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean" are now on the agenda. For some time, the military has been considering the Indian Ocean, in particular, to be the "Key Sea" in the struggle with China over hegemony. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.) The ISPK associate declared that to expand the German naval presence in Djibouti (East Africa) "to a permanent base of operations" is not out of the question. The German naval vessels' integration in US Navy "carrier strike groups" is also "very advantageous from the standpoint of alliance policy." This must also be a consideration for British or French units.
Ultimately, the paper concludes that the establishment of "multination units" must urgently and rapidly be advanced. The impending crisis-imposed budget cuts throughout the EU, alone, make the pooling of forces inevitable. The recently expressed idea of establishing a German-French Air Force, even though "worth considering," is at the same time risky. France - like Great Britain - insists on military independence. "Therefore any German initiatives should be aimed at smaller partners," the paper advises. They are hardly still in a position to assure their own national defense at the highest military technological level, on a long-term basis and, therefore, are obliged to enter cooperation with other nations. At the same time, from Berlin's perspective, there is no danger of losing its predominating influence to a weaker ally within the structure of military cooperation.