Even Closer to the Conflicts

BERLIN (Own report) - The German government has entered the new year with the announcement of new global policy ventures and a plea not to shy away from "difficult decisions" in international conflicts. Berlin must assume "responsibility" and seek "global solutions," German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, sees Germany having been moved "even closer to the crises and conflicts" of the present day, by its two-year membership on the UN Security Council, which began January 1. Berlin seeks to use its seat on that body to impose a formulation of EU foreign policy and induce Paris to submit to joint activities described as "European." In the meantime, there are appeals from within the Protestant Church for an expansion of Bundeswehr missions. Beginning January 1, the Bundeswehr, has assumed command, of NATO's "Spearhead" intervention forces, which, within 72 hours, can be deployed anywhere on mission. Should NATO launch a mission this year, the Bundeswehr would be at the cutting edge.

"Global Solutions"

In her New Year's Address, Chancellor Angela Merkel was already preparing the German public to accept Berlin's new world policy ventures and a stronger military policy role. In the current situation, where "certainties of international cooperation ... have come under pressure" - also in reference to tensions with the USA - "we must again take a more resolute stand for our convictions," and "fight for them," declared the Chancellor.[1] Moreover, Germany must "assume more responsibility for its own interests." In Berlin, the term "responsibility" - increasingly in use since former President Joachim Gauck uttered it on October 3, 2013 [2] - is usually used to stake claims in global policymaking. Therefore, Merkel announced that Germany would use its current seat on the UN Security Council to promote - undefined - "global solutions." At the same time, the German government will push for rearmament at both the national and the continental levels. "We are increasing ... our defense expenditures," the chancellor declared. "We are committed to making the European Union more robust and capable of taking decisions."

"Difficult Decisions"

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas made similar pronouncements, at the turn of the year, in reference to Germany's seat on the UN Security Council. Every eight years, Germany poses its candidature for one of the ten non-permanent seats on the council. It was a member in 2003/04, as well as 2011/12, and was again elected last year, and reinstated on January 1. The whole world places high hopes in the German membership, Maas claims. "The expectations placed in us have never been as high." Berlin will "accept this challenge."[3] "By becoming a member of the Security Council, we will move politically even closer to the crises and conflicts," Maas predicted. "We would also not be able to duck difficult decisions."[4] Maas used this formulation to make allusion to the German government refusing in March 2011, to approve a UN resolution, stipulating, in particular, the creation of a no-fly zone over Libya and calling for a western military coalition to take "all necessary measures to protect the population." Many in Berlin's foreign policy establishment criticized the lack of German approval for the intervention, which ultimately was misused to overthrow the Libyan government. The minister's current statement indicates a renunciation of the policy at that time.

"European Unity"

The German government currently plans to use its seat on the UN Security Council primarily to promote the formulation of an EU foreign policy. For quite some time, Berlin has been demanding a permanent seat on this body. In accordance with the Berlin government's coalition agreement, it is now demanding a seat for the EU on the council. In a public speech in Berlin in late November, Germany's Minister of Finances, Olaf Scholz called on Paris to transform its permanent seat on the UN Security Council into a seat for the EU.[5] The open attempt to expand its own resources of power by acquiring access to France's post-World War II privileges, has provoked indignation in that neighboring country, whose interests Germany has been systematically undermining at the EU level (german-foreign-policy.com reported [6]). Already in July, Foreign Minister Maas announced that Germany would alternatively "interpret our seat on the Security Council (...) as European." It boils down to "European unity." Berlin wants to be "the German voice in the European context."[7] The German government allegedly seeks to informally combine the German chair of the Security Council (in April) with the French chair (in May) to form a "European" chair, to take a further step toward the formulation of a unified EU foreign policy.

"Far too Underrepresented in UN Missions"

In the meantime, voices within the Protestant Church are calling for linking the two-year Security Council membership with an expansion of Bundeswehr missions. At the beginning of the year, Protestant Military Bishop Sigurd Rink declared that "in the context of Germany's greatness and economic power, we are far too underrepresented in UN missions."[8] Rink sees the Bundeswehr "on the whole, ... as an organization with conservative values," which therefore can "get along well with the church."[9] According to Rink, the Bundeswehr's mission in Mali - currently its second largest foreign engagement after Afghanistan - is "a minor, modest contribution." He declared, with their interventions the German armed forces open development opportunities to foreign countries "oriented toward a just peace."[10]

At the Cutting Edge

While Foreign Minister Maas announces that he will place "also his themes on the agenda;" and Chancellor Merkel seeks to promote "global solutions," the Bundeswehr assumes the command of NATO's "Spearhead" forces on January 1. The establishment of the "Very High Readiness Joint Task Force" (VJTF) was initiated at the September 2014 NATO Summit. The force consists of around 8,000 soldiers, who, within 72 hours, can be deployed on mission anywhere. The Bundeswehr furnishes four thousand of those soldiers, while nearly another 1,000 have been placed at VJTF's disposal from other organizational areas. Additional units are coming also from France, Norway, and the Netherlands. The Bundeswehr had played a major role in creating the unit in 2015 (german-foreign-policy.com reported [11]) and will again take the lead in 2023. Should NATO launch an emergency engagement in the course of the year, the Bundeswehr, in all probability, will be at the cutting edge - wherever that mission may happen to be.


[1] Neujahrsansprache von Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel zum Jahreswechsel 2018/2019 am Montag, den 31. Dezember 2018, in Berlin.

[2] See also Sleeping Demons and The Re-Evaluation of German Foreign Policy.

[3] Außenminister Maas zu Beginn der Mitgliedschaft Deutschlands im VN-Sicherheitsrat. auswaertiges-amt.de 01.01.2019.

[4] Maas: Unsere Verantwortung wächst. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 31.12.2018.

[5] See also All or Nothing.

[6] See also Hegemonie nach deutscher Art.

[7] Maas fordert Initiative für europäischen Sitz im UN-Sicherheitsrat. welt.de 19.07.2018.

[8] "Wir haben nun einen neuen Kalten Krieg in Europa". welt.de 01.01.2019.

[9] Mario Quadt: "Die Auslandseinsätze sind keine Trockenübungen". general-anzeiger-bonn.de 20.11.2018.

[10] Militärbischof Rink: Soldaten als Friedensmächte achten. evangelisch.de.

[11] See also 21st Century Warfare (I) and 21st Century Warfare (II).