“We are a Leading Power”

German defense minister Lambrecht declares Germany a “leading military power.” National Security Strategy to ensure clout. Lambrecht plans annual “National Security Day.”

BERLIN (Own report) – "Germany's size, its geographical situation, its economic power — in short, its clout — makes us a leading power,” declared German Minister of Defense Christine Lambrecht. As Lambrecht affirmed yesterday in a speech to the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), Germany is "a leading power ... also in the military sphere." In the future, the Bundeswehr must play “a more important role in our political thinking and action.” In her speech Lambrecht focused on the new National Security Strategy that the government plans to adopt still this year. The strategy, being drafted under the auspices of the foreign ministry, reflects on a national level the EU’s “Strategic Compass” – a sort of military doctrine – and NATO’s new Strategic Concept. Since the Strategy’s implementation will entail considerable costs, it is necessary to win broad public acceptance – for example by introducing a “National Security Day.” The ambitious plans are in stark contrast to the failure of German military missions over the past few years.

“Overarching Security Policy Document“

The adoption of the National Security Strategy, persistently demanded in Berlin for years – alongside measures such as establishing a National Security Council [1] – has been explicitly stipulated in the agreement of Germany’s Red-Green-Yellow coalition government. According to the German defense ministry, the strategy will be the “overarching security policy document for the Federal Government.”[2] It will be “comprehensive,” “inter-ministerial.” This is why, “right from the beginning, the different ministries are closely involved in the drafting process” under the auspices of the foreign ministry. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock officially launched the drafting of the Strategy at a kick-off event this past March 18. Most recently, the National Security Strategy was discussed in the government’s closed-door meeting in late August in Meseberg. The strategy has two external points of reference – the EU’s Strategic Compass, adopted by the Union in March [3] and NATO’s Strategic Concept, adopted in late June at the NATO Summit in Madrid [4]. The EU’s Strategic Compass, also called the EU’s “military doctrine,” was developed on Germany’s initiative. Berlin exerted strong influence on its drafting.

“Germany’s Clout”

Securing geopolitical leadership position for Germany is the main concern in the formulation of the National Security Strategy. “Germany's size, its geographical situation, its economic power — in short, its clout — makes us a leading power, whether we like it or not,” affirmed Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht yesterday before the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).[5] Already back in March, at the kick-off event to begin work on drafting the National Security Strategy, Foreign Minister Baerbock declared that the allied partner nations are calling on Germany for leadership “as the largest European national economy.”[6] Lambrecht extended the demand for leadership to include the armed forces and saying that Germany was “the leading power ... also in the military sphere;” the Bundeswehr will have to “play a more important role in our political thinking and action.” That has also financial consequences. The Bundeswehr, in the long term, must have a budget that at least amounts to two percent of Germany’s economic output. “Germany can do this,” insisted Lambrecht, yesterday in her speech at the DGAP, which also attracted international attention.

A “Geopolitical Europe capable of Global Politics”

In light of the Bundeswehr’s possible engagement scenarios, Lambrecht declared yesterday, that “defense of nation and the alliance” must “be at the top of our priority list from now on,” the troops would be the “main entity for the provisions of our essential services.[7] This is also due to the fact that the United States “has focused its primary attention ... on security in the Pacific region.” For Washington, at least since its “Pivot to Asia” announced by US President Barack Obama in November 2011, the power struggle against the persistently emerging China is at the focus of its global policy ambitions.[8] The demand that the EU’s powers, particularly Germany, assume a military leadership role in Europe and the countries at its immediate periphery, within the context of the transatlantic division of labor, has been quite openly formulated for the past ten years.[9] Lambrecht now reiterates that Germany is “ready to take the burden off America in Europe,” therefore the European Union must, of course, also be “reinforced.” Just recently, in his speech held at the Karls University in Prague, Chancellor Olaf Scholz put forward the demand for “a geopolitical Europe capable of global politics.”[10]

“National Security Day”

Recently, in reference to Germany and the EU’s extensive arms buildup, an expert at Warsaw’s Ośrodek Studiów Wschodnich (OSW, Center for Eastern Studies), commented in the course of a debate on the strategy currently being elaborated that “these measures will be very costly for us in Europe and will generally be very demanding. Therefore, one aspiration of Germany’s National Security Strategy should be to win the German society’s approval for these expenses.”[11] This view is widely shared. For example, in a concise description of the strategy’s objectives, the General Staff Officer, Lt. Col. Philipp Lange explained: “It is important to us that the people in our country support the direction of this future strategy. This is why we are seeking a dialogue with our citizens.”[12] Yesterday, Lambrecht has now taken a similar position before the DGAP. The necessary “cultural change” must first of all “take place in our political operations in Berlin,” noted the defense minister. However, that will not suffice; the population must also be brought in line with the National Security Strategy. For this, the defense minister will initiate an annual “National Security Day” in Germany.[13]

Ambition and Reality

Demands for a massive arms buildup, for a German geopolitical leadership role and for the active involvement of the population in the hegemonic ambitions of Berlin’s elite, stand in stark contrast to the results of German-European military missions throughout the past decade. This was recently outlined by an expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), who currently sits on the advisory board of the Federal Academy for Security Policy (BAKS). She writes, “the Afghanistan mission was a failure, and the chaotic withdrawal relentlessly demonstrated to Europeans the extent of their military dependence on the United States.” “The European’s efforts to bring stability to Mali and in the Western Sahel Zone, have also not achieved the aspired successes.”[14] Besides, the wars in Syria and Libya, are now “entering their second decades.“ However, “Europeans” had “hardly played a role in efforts to settle them.” “The gap between the Europeans’ ambitions ... and their concrete global influence” has been growing ever wider over the years.”


[1] See also Ein Bundesverkehrswegeplan für die Rüstung and Strategy Recommendations for the Next German Government (II).

[2] Answers to the most important questions on the new National Security Strategy. bmvg.de 07.09.2022.

[3] See also Die Militärdoktrin der EU and Das Kräftemessen des 21. Jahrhunderts.

[4] See also At the Center of the Risk of Escalation and Die NATO am Pazifik.

[5] „Deutschlands Gewicht macht uns zur Führungsmacht“. tagesschau.de 12.09.2022.

[6] Außenministerin Annalena Baerbock bei der Auftaktveranstaltung zur Entwicklung einer Nationalen Sicherheitsstrategie. auswaertiges-amt.de 18.03.2022.

[7] „Deutschlands Gewicht macht uns zur Führungsmacht“. tagesschau.de 12.09.2022.

[8] See also Das pazifische Jahrhundert.

[9] See also Die Neuvermessung der deutschen Weltpolitik.

[10] See also Das „weltpolitikfähige, geopolitische Europa“.

[11] Justyna Gotkowska: Wanted: Klare Leitlinien für die zukünftige Sicherheitsordnung in Europa. fourninesecurity.de.

[12] Answers to the most important questions on the new National Security Strategy. bmvg.de 07.09.2022.

[13] „Deutschlands Gewicht macht uns zur Führungsmacht“. tagesschau.de 12.09.2022.

[14] Jana Puglierin: Der Strategische Kompass: Ein Fahrplan für die Europäische Union als sicherheitspolitische Akteurin. Bundesakademie für Sicherheitspolitik: Arbeitspapier 7/22.