Germany to re-invent its security position in Europe and a chaotic world

Munich Security Conference 2018. (From left to right) Ursula von der Leyen, German Federal Minister of Defense, Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Services, French Republic and Wolfgang Ischinger, Ambassador, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference. 16/2/2018, Image source: MSC / Kuhlmann.

At the Munich Security Conference of last week, the hottest criticism for the Grand Coalition agreement of Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz, coming from within and without the country was about not spending enough on armaments and security. The American Defense Secretary Jim Mattis focused on that Germany must spend 2% of GDP on defense, of which 20% on armaments, reiterating the similarly pressing notorious demand by President Donald Trump.

From a different point of view but aiming the same target, that is, more defense spending by Germany, conservative Norbert Röttgen Chairman of Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee observed “Europe can longer rely on American Support”. Exactly in the same line of thinking Dieter Kempf, President of the powerful Federation of German Industry said “In security policy, Europe can no longer rely on American support.”

Focus on money

Currently, Germany spends around 1.25% of its GDP on defense, considered very low by NATO standards for a wealthy country. Accordingly, the country’s arms industry feels ‘neglected’ by its own government. This is why, probably some military hardware German producers have been accused and convicted for bribing foreign government officials in order to boost their sales.

Last but not least, Hans-Peter Bartels the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces insists his country must to increase defense spending. He even became a ominous by saying, if Germany has to renew her weaponry and increase manpower, €10 to €12 billion of extra spending is needed, on top of the current defense budget of €37 billion. Indirectly, Bartels tells his compatriots that their security is at present poorly protected by outdated systems, operated by inadequate personnel. His proposal amounts to a 32% increase in defense spending by Germany. This is way larger than the negligible or zero increases on social security, health or education expenses provided by the 2018 budget.

Germany looks at France

At the same time, and at the same venue the two lady defense ministers of Germany and France found the opportunity in the same Munich conference, to introduce a totally new European institution; a bilateral –German, French- defense institution or better said a new taxpayer money burner. They advertised a doubling of their common military cooperation and invited any other EU country to join them and of course become their pawn and customer. Who said that by definition women as family nest minded mothers are more sensitive than men, to new human suffering surely to be caused by more military operations?

Frau Ursula von der Leyen, however, was much more decisive than Madame Florence Parly about the role of the future military ‘institution’. The German minister of Defense said the European countries which may choose to follow the two, won’t have a veto power in the new body, because unanimous decision making blocks effectiveness. So, according to Leyen democracy is just an impediment for ‘doers’.

Reserved Paris

Her French counterpart was much less enthusiastic and more reserved. Parly observed that the new initiative will be fully “complimentary to the NATO alliance”. The truth is that France doesn’t need the ‘help’ of Germany to sail freely in the world arenas, where military presence is translated into political power and colonial…wealth, mainly coming from mining or fossil hydrocarbons.

What is currently happening with the extraction of oil and natural gas in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone in the south of the island, is very characteristic. The American ExxonMobil and the French Total work in the Cyprus EEZ unimpeded by Turkey, which has blocked similar action by the Italian Eni. Italy’s military capabilities compare poorly to France’s and of course to US. In the case of Germany the country doesn’t even have oil/gas giants or mining multinationals or the military abilities to protect them as France and the US do.

Not to forget, France and Britain supported by the US destroyed Libya and still help the Americans in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The French are also militarily present in many African countries protecting the interests of their mainly mining multinationals. Germany is completely absent from this international looting. An exporting giant but a military dwarf Germany bases its affluence on free trade and multilateralism. Unfortunately for Berlin, both those basics principles of international relations are now under attack. Not having not the right armaments to repel the offensive is a major drawback for Berlin.

Military dwarf

That’s why Germany now energetically tries to greatly intensify its military cooperation with France. Paris however, doesn’t appear ready to embark on new military schemes aired by Berlin and this is why Parly directly referred this ‘initiative’ to NATO, where Germany appears to be now a great debtor. France together with Britain are in the heart of the western military universe, with Germany practically absent or with a complementary role. Berlin’s part is based on the country’s financial might, but when it comes to air raids and ground operations Germany is impotent.

In conclusion, if Western Europe is really trying to acquire an independent security role in a world which becomes increasingly unpredictable and chaotic, Germany’s position has to be re-invented. France and Britain even after Brexit will together continue calling the shots in the Old Continent and the wider region. Can Germany join them on an equal footing? Not soon.

 

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