The Bundeswehr's Next Area of Operation

The German Government plans to increase military operations in the "Indo-Pacific" in the strategic competition with China.

BERLIN/CANBERRA | | australienchina

BERLIN/CANBERRA (Own report) - The German government plans to send a frigate for patrol in the Indian Ocean and to deploy German naval officers on Australian warships, announced German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on the occasion of her talks with her Australian counterpart. A training expedition of the frigate "Hamburg" to the Indian Ocean was originally planned for this year but had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. According to Kramp-Karrenbauer, the Indo-Pacific has become an arena of "global challenges" and "Germany needs to mark its position in the region." At the same time, Kramp-Karrenbauer is quoted saying that Germany wants to maintain business with China, which is currently helping the German industry through the Corona crisis. According to an article in the foreign policy magazine "Internationale Politik," Germany should rearm Taiwan's armed forces and conduct joint military exercises with them. This would amount to a profound breach in relations with Beijing.

"Arena of Global Challenges"

Germany plans to expand its "Indo- Pacific" military presence, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced on the occasion of her talks with her Australian counterpart, Linda Reynolds. According to the Ministry of Defense, Berlin will promote the expansion of NATO's collaboration with Australia, particularly "in the fields of cyber defense, space, and maritime security."[1] Under the general term "partners across the globe," NATO cooperates not only with Australia but, in various forms, also with New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Mongolia and Colombia. In addition to its activities within the NATO framework, the Bundeswehr plans to expand its national activities into the "Indo-Pacific" - which includes the vast region from South to Southeast and East Asia all the way to the Pacific islands and is a collective term used by US strategists to create the framework for a broad alliance against China. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[2]) The "Indo Pacific" has become an arena of "global challenges," says Kramp-Karrenbauer, and Germany should not stay away, is her justification for increasing Bundeswehr activities in the region.

"Mark German Positions"

At the beginning of last week, Kramp-Karrenbauer had already made concrete announcements in Australia's daily The Sydney Morning Herald. German navy officers will be deployed on Australian naval vessels and a German frigate will be sent on patrol in the Indian Ocean.[3] A training expedition to the Indian Ocean was originally planned for this year for the frigate "Hamburg". The warship was to first arrive in the French overseas department La Réunion, nearly 800 km east of Madagascar, then be temporarily integrated into the Franco-German Naval Force (DEFRAM) and continue its journey to Australia - a step in the expansion of the military cooperation with that country.[4] The mission had to be cancelled due the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Kramp-Karrenbauer, the mission has been resumed because "Germany needs to mark its position in the region."[5] The German defense ministry also plans training cooperation, dispatching liaison officers to multilateral staffs and the Bundeswehr's participation in multinational maneuvers in the "Indo-Pacific."[6]

The Profits from Business with China

Still uncertain is whether Berlin intends to also dispatch warships into the South China Sea, where the US Navy regularly provokes China by deliberately making military passages within the 12-mile zones surrounding islands China claims as its sovereign territory. Warships from France, Great Britain, and Australia are also cruising through the South China Sea, which Beijing considers an affront.[7] In the context of sending a German frigate to patrol the Indian Ocean, Kramp-Karrenbauer emphasized that China is an important trading partner for Germany and that the two have strong economic ties which are "in the interest of both sides."[8] As a matter of fact, Berlin attaches great importance to characterizing the People's Republic of China not only as a "strategic rival" but also as an important economic "partner."[9] China's significance for the German industry - as the most important trading partner, the third most significant investment location with a persistently rapidly increasing tendency - has recently become even stronger due to the corona crisis. Last week, Jörg Wutke, President of the EU Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, related that, for example, German automotive companies had been able to avoid a total debacle during the crisis, thanks to their current earnings in the People's Republic of China. "If China would not have such a strong growth, we would be having much bigger problems."[10] It is uncertain, whether the People's Republic will agree to a further expansion of its economic relations, should the German Navy extend its activities to the South China Sea.

"Protective Wall" against "Mass Migrations"

Hardliners have long since gone beyond demanding a German naval presence in the South China Sea. This can be seen in the current edition of the periodical "Internationale Politik" published by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), in an article by Ret. Col. Heino Klinck, who holds a leading position in the section for East Asia in the US Department of Defense, and Martin Wagener, professor for international affairs with the specialization of intelligence agencies at the Federal Academy of Public Administration in Berlin. Wagener made headlines two years ago with his book entitled "Germany's Insecure Borders - a Plea for a New Protective Wall," where he made a case for a drastic fortification of the EU's outer borders. He was calling for fortifying the borders with fences, barbed wire, infrared cameras and around 90,000 border patrol personnel. Asylum-seekers should be detained. That is the only way possible for Germany, in this "age of mass migration" to ward off migrants, he says.[11] Wagener estimates the costs for the installation of the "protective wall" at around €20 billion, and the annual cost of maintenance at around €9 billion.

Military Exercises with Taiwan

In their recent article in "Internationale Politik" Klinck and Wagener are promoting the development of comprehensive diplomatic, armament and military policy activities with Taiwan. Until now, Berlin has refrained from doing so out of respect for the "One China Policy," which means that only those not nurturing official relations with Taipei may have official relations with Beijing. Klinck and Wagener are not only now calling for sending a German cabinet minister to Taipei and receiving a Taipei representative by someone at State Secretary level in Germany's foreign ministry,[12] they are also demanding that "the Taiwanese military be supported in building up its defense capabilities." "This would also be advantageous for Germany's domestic arms industry." And finally, they call for the "unofficial exchanges between the armed forces of both sides" to be expanded. "These relations could begin with exercises in combating the consequences of natural disasters or at the level of the medical corps and then be expanded further."

Red Lines

Taking the steps proposed by Klinck of the US military and Professor Wegener, of the intelligence service, would result in a breach in relations with Beijing and would be capable of torpedoing the German government's current policy, aimed at seeking to increase pressure on Beijing, without jeopardizing German companies' profits from business with China. The "One China Policy" is one of the red lines of the People's Republic of China. In October, following the announcement of billions in US arms sales to Taiwan, Beijing made it known that it was imposing sanctions on the U.S. companies involved. Among them were Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies and Boeing Defense.[13]

 

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[1] Verteidigungsministerin betont Bedeutung des Indo-Pazifik-Raums. bmvg.de 06.11.2020.

[2] Regarding the term "Indo-Pacifik" see also Deutschland im Indo-Pazifik (I).

[3] Eryk Bagshaw, Latika Bourke: Germany refuses to turn a 'blind eye' to China, teams up with Australia. smh.com.au 02.11.2020.

[4] See also Asiens Schlüsselmeer.

[5] Eryk Bagshaw, Latika Bourke: Germany refuses to turn a 'blind eye' to China, teams up with Australia. smh.com.au 02.11.2020.

[6] Verteidigungsministerin betont Bedeutung des Indo-Pazifik-Raums. bmvg.de 06.11.2020. See also Deutschland im Indo-Pazifik (IV).

[7] See also In the Transpacific Cold War.

[8] Eryk Bagshaw, Latika Bourke: Germany refuses to turn a 'blind eye' to China, teams up with Australia. smh.com.au 02.11.2020.

[9] See also "China bleibt Partner" and Business Rather than Decoupling.

[10] "Gegen steroidgefütterte staatseigene Betriebe kommen wir nicht an". ipg-journal.de 02.11.2020.

[11] David Ruch: Rechtsextremismusverdacht bei BND-Ausbilder. t-online.de 08.09.2020.

[12] Heino Klinck, Martin Wagener: Fragiler Frieden in der Taiwanstraße. In: Internationale Politik Nr. 6/2020. S. 51-56.

[13] Waffen für Taiwan: China kündigt Sanktionen gegen US-Firmen an. dw.com 26.10.2020.