November Drumming

BERLIN (Own report) - Leading German politicians are calling for a more aggressive German and EU foreign and military policy, in the run-up to tomorrow's Bundeswehr public oath-taking ceremony. "Europe must learn the language of power," says Ursula von der Leyen, the designated EU Commission President, and is demanding to "build our own muscles" militarily. German Foreign Minster Heiko Maas proposes the creation of a 'European Security Council" with the inclusion of Great Britain, because the targeted "Army of the Europeans" cannot forego its armed forces. Berlin has simultaneously approved billions in arms projects. The Bundestag's budget committee, for example, has approved more than half a billion euros, to also benefit NATO's "Spearhead," while the defense committee has approved the procurement of 80 Leopard 2A7V battle tanks worth around €1 billion. To increase acceptance of the Bundeswehr's foreign missions, the chancellor is calling for support of tomorrow's public oath-taking ceremonies.

The Language of Power

Following Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer's announcement, last week, of expanding the deployment of the Bundeswehr, leading German politicians have upped the ante and emphatically called for a more aggressive German and EU foreign and military policy. In her speech at the CDU affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation, last Friday, in the German capital, designated EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen claimed that "soft power" is no longer enough in today's world, and "Europe must learn the language of power."[1] On the one hand, "this means building our own muscles" in security policy. On the other, the Union must become "more strategic in light of Europe's external interests." Under von der Leyen, the Commission is pursuing its arms buildup plan for the EU, with double-digit billions in euros.[2] Regarding "high-end military capabilities," EU member states need "full-spectrum land, air, space and maritime capabilities," according to the "Global Strategy for the European Union," adopted in 2016.[3] Critics keep insisting that financing military expenditures from EU coffers is inadmissible under the EU treaties - but in vain.

Center of the EU Council Presidency

On Sunday German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has tabled new demands. In a feature article, he first of all took aim at French President Macron's strong criticism of NATO. In an interview, Macron had declared the "brain death of NATO."[4] Maas, on the other hand, pointed out that "without the United States, neither Germany nor Europe is in a position to protect themselves effectively". It, therefore, would be "dangerous to decouple" from the United States. "We will need NATO for many years to come."[5] Maas agreed with Macron in seeking a "strong and sovereign Europe." The French President claimed that "Europe" would "disappear," if "it can't think of itself as a global power." The German foreign minister announced that he is working with his French counterpart on the "idea" of establishing a "European Security Council." As a "beacon on the horizon," it has to be placed at "the center of the German EU Council Presidency" in the second half of 2020. The UK must be involved, even if it leaves the EU.

Billions for War

Over the past few days, voluminous plans for the Bundeswehr's military buildup have been passed in the wake of Berlin's propaganda offensive for a more aggressive foreign and military policy. Already on Wednesday, the Budget Committee of the German Bundestag approved €560 million in weapons projects. Thus, up to 2,200 additional "command structures," can be bought, with which, according to the defense ministry, "the combat, command, and support vehicles, along with the mobile command facilities" may be integrated into a "digital information and communications network."[6] The equipment initially will then be needed for NATO's "Spearhead" "Very High Readiness Joint Task Force" (VJTF) and cost more than €115 million. Nearly €300 million have been earmarked for 50 Patriod PAC-3 MSE guided missiles, and around €73 million are planned for the maintenance of 196 Wiesel tankettes. In addition, the Bundestag's Defense Committee calls for the procurement of 80 additional Leopard 2A7V battle tanks. These are also needed for the VJTF, currently under Bundeswehr command, and which the Bundeswehr will again be in command in 2023. These new vehicles will increase the number of the German armed forces' battle tanks to more than 400. The costs are estimated at around a billion euros.[7]

Bring Clarity

The propaganda offensive and the new arms buildup decisions are preceding the public oath-taking by recruits, which the Bundeswehr with carry out tomorrow (November 12) in Plön (Schleswig-Holstein), Stralsund (Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania), Rotenburg/Wümme (Lower Saxony), Freyburg (Saxony-Anhalt), Mainz (Rhineland-Palatinate) and Berlin. Another public military oath-taking ceremony has been scheduled for Munich on November 18. The ceremonies will be held at the initiative of Defense Minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who announced in her government statement on July 24, in the Reichstag, that she had proposed November 12 - the day the Bundeswehr was founded in 1955 - to the prime ministers of all of the federal states. Public oath-taking ceremonies send out "a strong signal and are a clear demonstration of recognition for our soldiers."[8] In fact, Berlin's politicians see a problem in the population's consistent lack of enthusiasm for the Bundeswehr's overseas missions. For example, before a national security council can decide "to use military means, together with other Europeans," the "majority of our society must be ready to accept it," declared the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sigmar Gabriel, last weekend, "we still have a long way to go."[9] A public debate could "do us some good," surmised Gabriel, "ultimately bringing clarity."

"Show Character!"

With this in mind, Chancellor Angela Merkel had appealed for participation in the Bundeswehr's public oath-taking ceremonies. She would "simply like to say thank-you" to "all those, who serve in the Bundeswehr," Merkel declared last weekend: "You are doing a great job."[10] The ceremonies on November 12 are "a good occasion" to "demonstrate that the Bundeswehr is part of our society." "I invite you, my fellow citizens," she appealed, "to take part, and show character by being there or by otherwise demonstrating your support." About 400 recruits will take their oath at the central ceremony in Berlin. Wolfgang Schäuble, President of the Bundestag, has been announced as the keynote speaker, and the ceremony will take place in front of the Reichstag. Admission is by invitation only - "for reasons of security," as the ministry of defense explains.


Please also note our video column: Fighting for Germany.


[1] Ursula von der Leyen: Europa-Rede. Berlin, 8. November 2019.

[2] See also The Germans to the front.

[3] Gemeinsame Vision, gemeinsames Handeln: Ein stärkeres Europa. Eine Globale Strategie für die Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik der Europäischen Union. Brüssel 2016.

[4] Emmanuel Macron in his own words (French). 07.11.2019.

[5] Heiko Maas: Wir wollen und brauchen die Nato. 10.11.2019.

[6] Ausrüstung: Rund 560 Millionen Euro für die Bundeswehr. 07.11.2019.

[7] Matthias Gebauer, Gerald Traufetter: Neue Panzer fürs Heer. 08.11.2019.

[8] Kramp-Karrenbauer für öffentliche Bundeswehr-Gelöbnisse. 24.07.2019.

[9] Sigmar Gabriel: "Wäre nicht schlecht, die deutsche Verfassung zu kennen". 09.11.2019.

[10] Transkript Podcast "Jubiläum Bundeswehr". 09.11.2019.