Leadership under One Roof (II)

BERLIN (Own report) - In view of the German defense minister's initiative to set up a Western controlled occupation zone in northern Syria, new demands for the establishment of a German national security council are being raised. "Because of a possible dissolution of the grand coalition by the end of the year" there is currently "little room for ambitious conceptual ideas," according to a recent article in a leading German daily. Germany, nevertheless urgently needs an institution that can guarantee "analysis, strategic projection, and strategy planning" - as a prerequisite for more success in advancing its global policy. The demand to establish a German national security council has been repeatedly raised over the years. In 2006, for example, the establishment of a "center of gravity for a strategic decision-making process" directly within the chancellery had been proposed. The idea was picked up again in March by Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

A Center of Gravity in the Chancellery

For years, German foreign and military policymakers have been demanding the establishment of a national security council in Berlin, for example, on January 13, 2006, by Rudolf Adam, at the time, President of the Federal Academy for Security Policy (Bundesakademie für Sicherheitspolitik, BAKS). At a conference organized jointly by BAKS and the DGAP (German Council on Foreign Relations), Adam declared that a government seeking to actively "help shape the world" needs "a clear center of gravity for a strategic decision-making process."[1] This can only be a national security council, which should be set up within the chancellery, as a "strategic planning and coordination unit." In view of a national security council's large capacities, the chancellery could, of course, develop "a power center of its own." Whether this would "excessively disturb" the "delicate balance of power" that had "developed since 1949 in Germany," must be discussed and decided. In his speech on January 13, 2006, Adam declared that in any case, "essential aspects" of the German Basic Law must "be revised" due to foreign and military policy considerations. The president of BAKS spoke of "leadership under one roof."

A "Self-Constrained Republic"

With his demand at the time, Adam was not isolated. In fact, the establishment of a national security council was already being broadly discussed. For example, in 2007, the Working Group for the Security of the Economy (ASW) an umbrella organization of several associations in the security branch, suggested "the establishment of a national security council ... including the state, the economy and the society."[2] In the following year, Andreas Schockenhoff, Vice Chair of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, also called for the establishment of a national security council. Schockenhoff explicitly demanded that this not only be conceived as an analysis center, but also as a decision-making center.[3] In January 2010, the leading foreign policy journal "Internationale Politik" announced that in the near future, the Federal Security Council, which mainly issues permits for arms sales, would be "transformed into a coordination body for German security policy."[4] This demand was accompanied with the plea for the establishment of a "national security strategy." The author viewed Germany, at the time, as a "self-constrained republic."

"Berlin's Political Paralysis"

The debate over the creation of a National Security Council has again been gaining new impetus since some time. In a programmatic article in March, CDU Chair, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer explained that "a national security council for the development of strategic guidelines and the coordination of foreign, security, defense, development and foreign economic policy" is "an idea very much worth considering." Kramp-Karrenbauer, who today is defense minister, spoke also in favor of the creation of a "European Security Council," which should decide "over the common foreign policy positions and organize the measures commonly taken in security policy."[5] She reiterated her plea for a European Security Council in May.[6] Already back in February, an article in Germany's leading liberal daily also made a plea for the creation of a national security council. In her article, the author - who, during the Obama administration, had worked in the White House and Pentagon and therefore is above suspicion of harboring German great-power pretensions - complained that "Germany's political paralysis" would lead to "one of the mightiest countries in Europe - if not the mightiest - being considered quasi politically absent."[7] This has to change, and an adequate mechanism would be the establishment of a national security council.

Informal Round-Table Discussions

This week, Germany's leading conservative daily provided space on its pages for this demand. The article's author, Christina Moritz, is a German Reserve Naval Commander and a research assistant for a CDU Bundestag parliamentarian. Already in 2016, she had laid out a detailed concept for a German National Security Council in the specialized journal "Europäische Sicherheit & Technik." As Moritz now reports, "informal round-table discussions are held in Berlin's Chancellery, presided over by the head of the chancellery under strict secrecy" and already "partially" assuming the functions of a national security council. However, it merely serves "to inform about security relevant current incidents or developments." They are producing "neither operative measures nor decisions." "Intermediate to long-term strategic planning," on the other hand, is "not even an aspect" of these informal discussions.[8] Moritz makes a plea for formalizing the - current - unofficial regulated structures.

Reject the Separation of Powers Precept

In a recent article appearing in a daily, Moritz now admits that "given the possible dissolution of the grand coalition by the end of the year" the "priorities in Berlin's political arena ... afford little space for ambitious conceptual ideas." And yet a "regular," possibly weekly convened "national security council" must be established, linked to the post of a national security advisor in the chancellery. "In addition, a secretariat and mirrored advisors to those in the ministries must also be on hand," writes the CDU employee. The council's meetings should be prepared "by an analysis unit within the defense ministry's portfolio." "If one would lift the legal separation of powers between police and intelligence activities," the author continues, "an unprecedented comprehensive unhampered exchange of relevant data between Germany's security agencies could result."


[1] Rudolf Adam: Fortentwicklung der deutschen Sicherheitsarchitektur - Ein nationaler Sicherheitsrat als strukturelle Lösung? Berlin, 13.01.2006. See also Führung aus einer Hand.

[2] Herausforderungen annehmen - Sicherheit schaffen. Leitsätze zu Zielen, Positionen und Aufgaben der ASW. asw-online.de. See also Nationaler Sicherheitsrat.

[3] Union will Nationalen Sicherheitsrat. faz.net 03.05.2008.

[4] Constanze Stelzenmüller: Die selbstgefesselte Republik; Internationale Politik Januar/Februar 2010. See also Deutschland in Fesseln.

[5] Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer: Europa richtig machen. cdu.de 09.03.2019.

[6] Kramp-Karrenbauer für europäischen Sicherheitsrat mit Großbritannien. de.reuters.com 23.05.2019.

[7] Julianne Smith: Denk' ich an Deutschland. sueddeutsche.de 13.02.2019.

[8] Christina Moritz: Nationaler Sicherheitsrat geht vor - Europäische Lösungen sind erst der nächste Schritt. esut.de 05.09.2019.

[9] Christina Moritz: Höchste Zeit für einen Nationalen Sicherheitsrat. faz.net 23.10.2019.