On a Par (II)

MUNICH (Own report) - At the Munich Security Conference last weekend, the German government assumed the role of an ally "on a par" with the United States. The chancellor and several ministers of Germany formulated conditions for continued cooperation with the US government, while holding out the prospect of a "stronger Europe," which, according to Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, should be capable of independently "coping successfully" with the "reality of crises and wars outside the bounds of the European Union." Appropriate rearmament measures are being prepared. The chancellor conceives of a military budget increase of around eight percent annually, while the discussion on German-European nuclear arms is continuing. Publicists are hinting at the possibility of Berlin sharing influence over the Force de Frappe through co-financing France's nuclear arms arsenal. Berlin is still relying on the alliance with Washington, at least for the time being, because rearmament and access to nuclear arms take time.

"Stand with Europe"

German foreign policy makers were relieved, when the US delegation to the Munich Security Conference reaffirmed Washington's commitment to the transatlantic war alliance, because statements by US President Donald Trump have repeatedly raised doubts. Already at the opening of the Conference on Friday evening, US Defense Minister James Mattis reported that, following initial disagreements Trump has "thrown now his full support to NATO." US Vice President Mike Pence declared: "on behalf of President Trump, I bring you this assurance: the United States of America strongly supports NATO and will be unwavering in our commitment to this transatlantic alliance." "This is President Trump's promise: we will stand with Europe today and every day," Pence continued. "The United States is now and will always be Europe's greatest ally."[1] US Senator John McCain, a foreign-policy hardliner and, in some respects, Trump's strongest opponent, expressed similar views. In Munich, he declared, "We cannot give up on ourselves and on each other."[2]

Self Confident

Whereas Washington is committed to transatlantic cooperation, Berlin is using the opportunity, provided by the massive international rejection of Trump's chauvinist policy, to position itself "on a par" with the United States, as was explicitly pronounced by Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel in an interview on the eve of the opening of the Munich Security Conference.[3] At the conference, Gabriel, Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen and Chancellor Merkel were posturing themselves as the guardians of "western values" - as opposed to the USA. There should be no "room for torture,"[4] said von der Leyen, in reference to Trump's considering the reintroduction of torture. Albeit, the minister did not utter a word about German government bodies' complicity in the CIA's kidnapping suspects, taking them to torture chambers. That would also implicate Germany's current President.[5] Foreign Minister Gabriel made a plea for a "stronger Europe," which, in the future, must be capable of independently - i. e. without the USA - "coping successfully with the reality of crises and wars outside the bounds of the European Union."[6] Subsequently, a leading German daily praised the German government for having "given the impression in Munich of self confidently seeking to confront on a par its most important ally with its own concepts."[7]

Eight Percent Annually

In Munich, the chancellor explicitly explained why Berlin still depends on an alliance with Washington: "We need the United 'States of America's military might."[8] However, she also insisted that the Federal Republic of Germany will greatly augment its military budget to two percent of its gross domestic product. Merkel admitted, nevertheless, that more than an annual 8 percent increase - corresponding to the 2017 defense budget increase in relationship to that of 2016 - would hardly be sustainable. Germany will therefore reach the recommended two percent of the GDP level somewhat later than demanded. Until then foreign and development policy budgetary obligations must be taken into consideration, insisted Merkel. Berlin's 2017 military budget is at 37 billion euros. Two percent of Germany's GDP would currently be €62 billion. Moreover, to strengthen the military capability of its armed forces, the German government strives for the further integration of foreign troops in the Bundeswehr [9] and otherwise promotes the formation of the EU's military component [10].

The Bomb

Furthermore, experts and publicists are intensifying demands for a German-European nuclear weapons capability, which, following Donald Trump's electoral victory have been raised in Germany. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[11]) In the immediate run-up to the Munich Security Conference, the Bundeswehr's former PR specialist, Jan Techau, declared that "in a few years, Germany will be confronted with foreign and security policy issues that the country, today, would not even dare to dream of," for example, the question of how to "prevent vulnerability to nuclear blackmail," if the USA is no longer prepared to open its "nuclear umbrella" over the EU. "Is there enough confidence in the European political market to rely entirely on France and Great Britain?" Techau asks. Today, Techau is Director of the Richard C. Holbrooke Forum for the Study of Diplomacy and Governance at Berlin's American Academy. "How is a country, with such a great hunger for moral clarity, supposed to deal with the weapon, considered to be the most immoral weapon of them all?"[12] Techau's article expounds on widely held misgivings about nuclear weapons - to invalidate each systematically.

"Nuclear Blackmail"

The internet portal of the weekly "Die Zeit" sees it similarly. The journal also asks "if Europe must take up nuclear arms, if Donald Trump closes the nuclear umbrella?" The article continues, saying that "Nuclear strategists" point out that France and Great Britain have nuclear weapons, "with which they could theoretically also shoulder guarantees for other countries." That, however, would alter "the European relations of power ... in their favor." This would open the "playing field to political blackmail of every sort."[13] "The Germans" may "soon be confronted with a hard choice," the authors allege. "Either they financially participate in the modernization of the French Force de Frappe and receive," - in return for their financial support - "a limited influence over a Europeanized French nuclear policy," or they "consider Donald Trump ... a reliable partner, who will guarantee Europe's security." The readers of "Die Zeit," as well as a large portion of the German public consider the latter to be out of the question.

[1] Trump-Vize an Europäer: "Werden an eurer Seite stehen". www.zeit.de 18.02.2017.
[2] "Sie dürfen Amerika nicht abschreiben". www.faz.net 17.02.2017.
[3] See Auf Augenhöhe.
[4] Rede der Bundesministerin der Verteidigung Dr. Ursula von der Leyen zur Eröffnung der 53. Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz. 17.02.2017.
[5] See A President's Policy.
[6] Rede von Außenminister Sigmar Gabriel auf der 53. Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz. 18.02.2017.
[7] Lorenz Hemicker: Der Trump-Übersetzer. www.faz.net 18.02.2017.
[8] Gemeinsam die Welt besser machen". www.bundesregierung.de 19.02.2017.
[9] See Unter deutschem Kommando.
[10] See The European War Union and The European War Union (II).
[11] See Reaching for the Bomb.
[12] Jan Techau: Als Moralapostel droht Deutschland zu zerreißen. www.faz.net 17.02.2017.
[13] Peter Dausend, Michael Thumann: Braucht die EU die Bombe? www.zeit.de 16.02.2017.