The National Security Strategy

Dispute over Germany's national security continues. German foreign ministry seeks close cooperation with the USA, Chancellery orients more on strategic sovereignty.

BERLIN (Own report) – The dispute between the chancellery and the foreign ministry over Germany's future national security continues. According to reports, it is unlikely that Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will be able to present and internationally publicize the strategy paper prior to the Munich Security Conference (Feb. 17-19) as was originally planned, due to disagreements on important issues, such as, whether Berlin's future National Security Council will be under the auspices of the Chancellery or the Foreign Ministry. As is reported the council should also ensure that “politically uncomfortable decisions” be implemented in the future “independently of opportunity costs.” How the security strategy will relate to two key US strategy documents, published last year, also remains unclear. The USA’s National Security Strategy and its National Defense Strategy characterize not Russia, but China as the primary adversary, against which even allied states should take action. Baerbock is fully in agreement with this, while Chancellor Scholz is more reticent.

“Fragmentary, Eurocentric”

Until now, the National Security Strategy – the first to ever be formulated by a German government – is being elaborated under the authority of Minister Annalena Baerbock’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Originally, the plan was to have it adopted during the SPD, FDP, Green coalition’s first year in office. Then, to draw the largest possible international attention to the document, a date was scheduled shortly prior to the Munich Security Conference (MSC, February 17 – 19). However, for some time, it has been apparent that this appointment will also not be kept. On December 19, the Chancellery reported halted the document that Baerbock was about to submit for departmental approval during the Christmas break. It was said that the draft was too fragmentary – with reference allegedly to more than 30 points that still had to be handled, as well as being “too Eurocentric.”[1] In the meantime, numerous important details have been clarified, however points of contention still remain. One of the serious remaining factors pertains to the fact that the Foreign Ministry had failed to include the federal states and the Ministry of the Interior in the elaboration of the strategy. Given the fact that the paper is expected to include such aspects as homeland security, critical infrastructure and civil defense, it would have serious consequences on the federal states.

The US Strategy

A recent analysis by the Federal Academy for Security Policy (BAKS) – the German government’s central strategy center seated at the Ministry of Defense – points out that the elaboration of the National Security Strategy must take, not only domestic power factors into consideration, but foreign ones, as well. In this case, BAKS attaches special significance, to the two key strategy papers published last year in the United States – the overriding National Security Strategy, and its subordinate National Defense Strategy, concentrating on the military and defense. Both constitute clear frameworks that Berlin should be considering, in some way, if it seeks to avoid inadvertently getting into serious foreign policy conflicts.

Three Pillars, Against China

The two US strategy papers have designated a clear hierarchy of adversaries for Washington’s global policies. Accordingly, Russia is currently receiving a considerable amount of attention due to the war in Ukraine, however, it is China that is the long-term main enemy. China is “the only competitor” in the entire world, “with both the intent” and the power to “reshape the international order,” according to the National Security Strategy. Therefore, all means must be brought to bear “to out-compete” China.[2] According to BAKS’ recent analysis, Washington is pursuing three approaches to do this. First, it is striving “to strengthen the domestic political foundation.” It is securing the critical infrastructure and supply chains, as well as intensifying its cybersecurity measures and seeking to gain the greatest lead in the field of cutting-edge high-tech industries. Social “resilience” is also important in case a conflict escalates. Alongside strengthening the economic and social basis, BAKS reports that the Biden administration is striving to create a strong “deterrence.” Thirdly, and finally, it seeks to involve its “allies ... and partners” in its measures.[3]

Narrowed down to the Military

As BAKS notes, the National Defense Strategy is based on a concept characterized as “integrated deterrence.” This pertains to “being able to deter rivals and enemies,” together with allied partners, “across various regional realms, ranges of conflicts and different domains of conducting warfare.”[4] This, in turn, requires “the ability to maintain combat-ready armed forces” – “in case deterrence fails, to be able to emerge victorious from a military conflict.” This concept is of course nothing new. However, “over the past few years, the USA has strongly narrowed it down to its military component – nuclear included –” BAKS explains. This is also impacting Germany. Therefore, Germany must not only “find a response” for dealing, for example, with the US’ demand for “dovetailing European and Indo-Pacific security.” “Billions more in long-term investments” in its military capacity cannot be circumvented. Germany, in particular, can no longer ignore “the growing importance of nuclear weapons.” A “modern nuclear deterrence” must be discussed.

“Politically Uncomfortable Decisions”

The answers contained in Berlin’s National Security Strategy are still unknown. It has been reported that the question of whether Germany’s military budget must be set categorically at two percent of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), or rather be flexible, oriented on the Bundeswehr’s very rapidly increasing needs, is among the remaining open issues. The former is advocated by the defense ministry, the latter by the foreign ministry.[5] An additional pending dispute revolves around where the new National Security Council should to be situated. Unclear remains whether it should be placed under the auspices of the chancellery or that of the ministry of foreign affairs. Either the largest, or one of the smaller parties in the government coalition will be in charge of the future council, depending on the final decision. The fact that this is more than merely a formal question, can be seen in the assessment given by Ret. Col. Roderich Kiesewetter, former CDU foreign policy expert, and current Vice Chair of the Parliamentary Intelligence Services Control Board. Kiesewetter explained, “There will be some politically uncomfortable decisions to be taken in the future.” “This is why a council is needed that reviews the implementation of the national strategy, independently of the government constellation and the opportunity costs.”[6]

In the Multipolar World

What is unclear is whether the China policy dispute has been settled. Under Baerbock’s leadership, the foreign ministry had made a proposal outlining Germany’s future strategy in relationship to China, which showed considerable compatibility with the US’ containment strategy and contains exceedingly confrontational passages. ( reported.[7]) It is said that the Chancellery found it “too harsh.”[8] Chancellor Olaf Scholz had the primary interests of Germany’s economy in mind. Exceedingly significant sectors, such as the automotive and chemical industries are structurally dependent on their business with China.[9] On the other hand, according to his own admission, Scholz is convinced that a “multipolar world” is emerging, whose rise is inevitable. This is not only about China’s growing strength, but also of the continuously growing influence of countries such as India, Indonesia Vietnam, South Korea, as well as countries in Africa and in South America”. ( reported.[10]) In the multipolar world, the EU must fight for and maintain its strategic sovereignty. The implementation of an independent China policy, diverging from US policy in significant aspects, would be a possible litmus test.


[1] Matthias Gebauer, Martin Knobbe, Marina Kormbaki, Christian Reiermann: Wer hat das Sagen in der Außenpolitik? 29.12.2022.

[2] National Security Strategy. Washington, October 2022. See also Playing with Fire (III).

[3], [4] Aylin Matlé: Die neue strategische Ausrichtung der USA: Worauf Deutschland besonders achten sollte. BAKS-Arbeitspapiere 1/23. Berlin, Januar 2023.

[5] Marina Kormbaki: Über diese vier Punkte streiten Scholz und Baerbock. 18.01.2023.

[6] Michael Stempfle: Mit Sicherheit dauert's länger. 12.01.2023.

[7] See also Strategy for a Decisive Decade (II).

[8] Matthias Gebauer, Martin Knobbe, Martina Kormbaki, Christian Reiermann: Wer hat das Sagen in der Außenpolitik? 29.12.2022.

[9] See also Die Strategie für das entscheidende Jahrzehnt (III).

[10] See also EU’s Strategic Sovereignty.