"Ambition in Security Policy"

German minister of defense and inspector general of the Bundeswehr presented a joint position paper "Bundeswehr of the Future."

BERLIN (Own report) - The conflict with Russia is gaining in importance in Berlin's military planning in comparison to previous foreign deployments in the global south. This becomes evident in the position paper ("Reflections on the Bundeswehr of the Future") published last week by the German Minister of Defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Inspector General of the Bundeswehr Eberhard Zorn. Initially, since the 1990s, the Bundeswehr had focused its capability profile on foreign deployments primarily in the Middle East and Africa and, since 2014; it has increasingly been shifting its focus towards the strategic requirements of the great power conflicts with Russia and China. In the meantime, the situation has "escalated," according to the position paper. Germany's role as a strategic military logistics "hub" eastward should therefore be enhanced. With the Bundeswehr's growing focus on the power struggle with Russia, the current position paper is but an initial impetus - further steps will follow over the next few months.

Global Foreign Deployments

Immediately following the end of the Cold War, the Federal Republic of Germany began to re-orient the Bundeswehr - previously mainly focused on is military role against the socialist countries in Eastern and Southeastern Europe and the Soviet Union - toward foreign deployments far beyond Alliance territory. This was initially expressed in the 1992 Defense Policy Guidelines, declaring the "maintenance of global free trade and the unrestricted access to markets and raw materials anywhere in the world" as an objective of German "security policy."[1] The orientation on foreign deployments affected the practical missions of the Bundeswehr from the war on Yugoslavia and Afghanistan to the naval operations at the Horn of Africa and the intervention in Mali. It has also been reflected in the Bundeswehr's 2006 White Paper and its 2011 Defense Policy Guidelines attaching particular importance to foreign deployments under catchwords such as "international conflict prevention and crisis management."

Turning Point 2014

Germany and NATO have, since several years, been reorienting their strategy toward a great power conflict with Russia, because of Moscow's reaction to the western policy of subversion in Ukraine, particularly Crimea's accession to the Russian Federation in 2014. The preparations for a conflict with Russia are declared to be purely defensive measures and Russia solely is attributed the role of aggressor. Tensions are the logical outcome and thus the foreseeable consequence of the West's eastward expansion policy since 1990. Berlin's new policy was officially inscribed in the Bundeswehr's 2016 White Paper, warning of a "renaissance of traditional power politics" and an increasing "risk of violent interstate conflict - even in Europe and its neighborhood." It specifically states that Russia has become "a challenge to the security of our continent," while noting that "in the future sustainable security and prosperity in and for Europe" could not be "ensured without strong cooperation with Russia."[2] Nevertheless, the White Paper is giving equal importance to the reorientation to the so-called national and collective defense in the context of the escalating conflict with Russia as to the orientation on the previously dominant military interventions particularly in the Middle East and Africa.

"Tense Situation"

On February 9, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Bundeswehr Inspector General Eberhard Zorn published a position paper, entitled "Reflections on the Bundeswehr of the Future," wherein they attribute great significance to the " national and collective defense," and therefore to the power struggle with Russia. According to the paper, a new "consolidated overall security situation" has emerged, that has been "hardly perceived by the public" even though it is "real."[3] Therefore it is "important to give an open and clear account of the intensified security situation and the necessity for investments [in upgrading and re-adapting the Bundeswehr]." China has developed into a powerful and, increasingly openly expansive player." Russia is intensifying its "military and political threats" against the West. This poses "very concrete threats for Germany." There is no longer talk of selective cooperation with Russia, instead Kramp-Karrenbauer and Zorn emphatically criticize that the Bundeswehr - with its reorientation in the 2011 Defense Policy Guidelines - was "solely directed towards international crisis management missions abroad."[4] "With an eye towards national and collective defense," the support provided by the Bundeswehr most recently in the COVID-19 pandemic (german-foreign-policy.com reported [5]) "clearly exposed vulnerabilities in terms of territorial structures and military decision-making processes." For the "national and collective defense," however, Germany needs also soldiers that "can stand their ground in combat."

Increased Readiness

Also according to the paper, while the "first steps" have been taken along the road to a "multiply deployable" Bundeswehr, further steps should now follow. The troops' operational readiness must be "more effectively enhanced." It is not merely enough, to "simply expand the armed forces of the past." The Bundeswehr "urgently" needs hi-tech capabilities and innovations. "Critical" sectors, such as a "comprehensive and modern air defense" and the capability for "rapid deployment of fully operational forces must be prioritized." "Despite the considerable increase" in defense spending, the Bundeswehr is "still underfunded." To be able to effectuate the time-consuming and costly procurement projects, it needs a budget that can reliably be planned and that continues to grow. A "Bundeswehr Planning Act" should therefore create a "solid, multiannual basis for financing" the military buildup and modification projects. Kramp-Karrenbauer and Zorn also "point out emphatically" that "defense" is "a whole-of-government task" that cannot be financed entirely from the defense budget, but must "be overarchingly supported." In addition, the military NATO "partners ... rightly expect us to raise our ambitions."

"Broad Military Profile"

More money for more personnel, material and innovations is supposed to provide the Bundeswehr a "broad military profile." According to the paper, it is ultimately "not a luxury, but a strategic imperative," because the "Bundeswehr of the future" must assume multiple responsibilities: it is supposed to be "supportive," allowing Germany, as the framework nation of multi-national formations, to assume a military leadership role within Europe. Germany should also become the strategic military logistical "hub" in "Central Europe." Kramp-Karrenbauer and Zorn also see the German armed forces as the "first responder." They should be "quicker than all others in the event of crisis, particularly at the external borders of NATO and the EU" - i. e. in the Baltic countries and in Southern Europe, at the Mediterranean as well as in the North Sea and the Baltic. Despite its strategic focus on conflicts with Russia and China, the Bundeswehr should also remain "troop contributor" in "international crisis management." The minister of defense and the Bundeswehr Inspector General explicitly call for "ambition ... in security policy."


[1] Verteidigungspolitische Richtlinien für den Geschäftsbereich des Bundesministers der Verteidigung. Bonn, 26.11.1992.

[2] Weißbuch zur Sicherheitspolitik und zur Zukunft der Bundeswehr. Berlin, 13.06.2016.

[3] Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Eberhard Zorn: Positionspapier: Gedanken zur Bundeswehr der Zukunft. Berlin, 09.02.2021.

[4] Verteidigungspolitische Richtlinien. Berlin, 27.05.2011.

[5] See also Die Coronakrise als Blaupause.