Getting ready for war (III)

The Bundeswehr is propelling a militarisation of civil society with its “Operationsplan Deutschland”. Military planners want to integrate civilian resources for combating Russia.

BERLIN (own report) - The still confidential “Operationsplan Deutschland” (Operations Plan Germany) announced by the Bundeswehr sets out not only military measures but also comprehensive steps towards a militarisation of German society as a whole. To discuss the details of the plan, conceived under the motto “Germany. Together. Defend”, Lieutenant General André Bodemann, Commander of the Bundeswehr Homeland Defence Command, Lieutenant General André Bodemann, invited “around 300” experts to Berlin at the end of January for an “intensified exchange of ideas between military and civilian actors”. The event brought together representatives from politics, police forces, technical relief organisations, fire services, academia, the media and business (particularly the energy and logistics sectors) as well as allied countries. The deployment of civilians and reservists is intended to free up military potential for operations in the east. Saxony’s Interior Minister Armin Schuster noted that Germany had already “learnt a lot” in terms of civil-military cooperation to combat “forest fires, pandemics and floods”. But “specifically on the question of leadership”, there was “no experience with war”. And a representative of the Federal Interior Ministry said Germany needed to be “less uptight” when “talking about war”.

A core element of the operations plan

The Bundeswehr say that civil-military cooperation is a “core element of the operations plan”.[1] The military wants to see much closer “networking between the security agencies, disaster prevention organisations and industrial companies”.[2] The German armed forces want to further intensify their “good working relationships” with the so-called blue-light organisations (police, fire brigade, technical relief organisation and rescue services) – relationships that have already been established through the Bundeswehr’s domestic missions conducted in “civilian crisis situations”. The “operation of Hub Germany”, which is at the heart of the transatlantic deployment against Russia ( reported [3]), “requires not only the Bundeswehr but also civilian partners”. Alongside interlocking cooperation with blue-light organisations, the Bundeswehr is aiming at having “similarly good working relationships” with industry.

Militarisation of civilian life

At the symposium in Berlin, around three hundred experts from the military, industrial, political and other relevant fields discussed civil-military cooperation “in the fields of logistics, including rail, air and road transport, energy supply and armaments”.[4] In this context, Lieutenant-General Bodemann, the Homeland Defence commander responsible for organising the event, pointed to examples of Cold War arrangements. Back then there was, he recalled, a special vehicle licence with which civilian companies had to make their vehicles available to the army in the event of war. As Bodemann explained, “all this needs to be thought about again”. Even today, the Bundeswehr already depends on “commercial charter agreements” to reserve logistics capacity and ensure “maximum civilian-sector service provision”.[5]

“War and combat”

When domestic civil resources are made available for military purposes, this frees up Bundeswehr capacities for deployment elsewhere. Berlin has already planned for a concentration of a large part of the German armed forces as close as possible to Russia’s western border for NATO missions. The purpose of “civil defence” is, according to defence policy guidelines, “to be able to supply the civilian population as well as our own and allied armed forces, thus ensuring military operational capability and freedom of operation in an unrestricted and sustainable manner when required.” As a top NATO general warned at a press conference in January, preparations for conflict with Russia would have to go beyond the military itself: “war and combat” were not the sole responsibility of a professional army; rather, “society as a whole” would be involved.[6]

Society as a whole

Germany’s military and security policymakers use the spectre of “hybrid threats” to justify the need for closely interlocking the civilian and military spheres. Internal and external security are in any case “hardly separable”, explains German naval officer Frank Fähnrich, one of the architects of the Operationsplan Deutschland.[7] The hybrid threats to be countered by the plan include, according to the Bundeswehr, “disinformation campaigns, cyber-attacks on government authorities and companies, espionage, intellectual property theft, attempts to influence the economy, politics and elections, as well as sabotage of critical infrastructures.” The military planners expect “the adversary” to try to “influence government decisions, public opinion and perhaps also the media.”[8] These “threats” can “only be countered jointly”, and if necessary, “even before a state of tension or defence occurs”. According to a Bundeswehr summary, the prevailing opinion at the symposium on the plan was that German society must “develop an awareness of such threats” and work to “strengthen resilience”. “Almost all participants” agreed that Germany was “already” and “massively” impacted by hybrid threats.[9]

Defaming protests

In conjuring “hybrid threats” or even “hybrid warfare”, the Bundeswehr is presenting scenarios that are generally difficult to substantiate or reliably attribute to a specific actor or even “adversary”. This leaves the door to conjecture and speculation wide open. Dissenting voices can easily be defamed as hostile activities. This was demonstrated under former German Chancellor Angela Merkel when she cited the “Fridays for Future” organisation as a case of Russia’s “hybrid warfare” in Germany. Speaking at the 2019 Munich Security Conference, Merkel admitted that hybrid warfare was “difficult to spot,” but still pointed the finger: “The idea that, quite suddenly, all German children – after years supposedly without any external influence – come up with the idea that they should join this protest is not plausible.”[10] Very recently, Green Bundestag deputy Sebastian Schäfer attempted to defame protests by farmers and others in the same way. After blocking the roads last Thursday in a protest aimed at disrupting a speaking event for Green politicians, Schäfer concluded, “We cannot rule out the possibility that Russian trolls are involved in such actions, that it is part of hybrid warfare.”[11]


[1] Operationsplan Deutschland: Wie verteidigen wir unser Land?

[2] „Hoffentlich keine Landung von russischen Fallschirmjägern“. 25.01.2024.

[3] See also: Auf Krieg einstellen (I) und Auf Krieg einstellen (II).

[4] Es geht nur gemeinsam. 26.01.2024.

[5] „Hoffentlich keine Landung von russischen Fallschirmjägern“. 25.01.2024.

[6] See also: Fear drives a war mentality.

[7] Operationsplan Deutschland: Wie verteidigen wir unser Land?

[8] „Hoffentlich keine Landung von russischen Fallschirmjägern“. 25.01.2024.

[9] Es geht nur gemeinsam. 26.01.2024.

[10] Merkel irritiert mit Kommentar zu Schülerdemos fürs Klima. 16.02.2019.

[11] Debatte über Sicherheit von Veranstaltungen. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 16.02.2024.