Helmut Schmidt (SPD), German Chancellor from 1974 to 1982, had been Defence Secretary from 1969 to1972. In his term of office the basic military service was foreshortened by three years from 18 to 15 months and there was the foundation of the Bundeswehr academies. During these years of his office the policy of détente prevailed in Germany. The idea, to wage a war in Europe or anywhere else in the world engaging West German soldiers was regarded as completely absurd at the time. As early as some years before, Federal Chancellor Ludwig Erhard (CDU) had rejected any military participation in the US Vietnam War, although the US administration had exerted strong pressure on the German government.
These days 50 years later, Germany has to witness a Defence Secretary, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (Christian Democratic Union, CDU), who is striving to distinguish herself for a future chancellorship. However, she does not pursue this goal by disarmament and signals for the détente and peace but by military build-up slogans and the attempt to enhance the German Bundeswehr’s readiness for war and to enlarge its operation range.
The German Defence Secretary’s policy must be regarded in the framework of a changing coordinate system of interior and foreign politics that can only be outlined in short in this article.
Take note of the following three examples: The newest proposals of the German Defence Secretary are not apt to reach consensus in Germany. A great majority of German citizens has rejected in the past and still rejects German combat missions abroad and the CDU’s rival parties build their policies on this basic mood in Germany. The whole affair reeks of primary race before the elections. This became obvious in the many controversial reactions towards Kramp-Karrenbauer’s newest proposals.
Furthermore there is the division between Germany and France. Whereas French President Macron spoke about the NATO’s “brain death” and asked for a powerful European army, German politicians dig in their heels when it comes to the close transatlantic linkage of German and European war preparations. As a fact it is hardly possible to determine the path which the present NATO leading power USA is going to tread in the coming years. Germany’s politicians dissociate themselves in an unprecedented manner from the President in office Donald Trump and at the same time they submissively succumb to those forces in the USA, whose names Clinton and Obama are closely connected with the US claim for a globalising world order that will be dominated by precisely these forces.
Third example: the transition towards a multi-polar world, which has been under way for several years now is not accepted by these forces with their hegemonic claim. There is considerable danger of a great war about hegemony.
The claims of the German defence secretary Kramp-Karrenbauer are to be found in her address to German soldiers (most of them officers and officer candidates) at the “Bundeswehrhochschule” (German armed forces academy) Munich. (https:// www.bmvg.de/de/aktuelles/rede-der-ministerin-an-der-universitaet-der-bundeswehr-muenchen-146670)
There were a lot of media covering this speech and publishing interviews with the minister. At the beginning of her address she speaks of “times of change and uncertainty” and of a world, which has been “turned upside down”. As some of the alleged indicators she lists – the “Russian aggression towards the Ukraine”, “the worldwide networks of terrorism” and the “power-political rise of China combined with a claim to world dominance – by now not only confined to its immediate neighbours”. Summa summarum: “We are experiencing a renewed rivalry of super powers competing for spheres of influence and dominance.”
Kramp-Karrenbaer’s analysis moves along the guidelines of her counsellor Karl-Heinz Kamp, who had been president of the Bundesanstalt für Sicherheitspolitik (Federal office for security policy). Since October 2019 he has been special envoy of the political director in the Federal Ministry of defence. Kamp’s contributions in various German newspapers revealed him to be an agitator for German war policy. On 5th September, in the magazine Cicero he demanded NATO’s stronger engagement (and that of the German Bundeswehr) in Asia, because “the rise of China is going to have a dramatic impact on Europe’s security”. Since Russia’s power “is built on sand” and the USA who was in fact a World power, seems to “dislike this status ever more”, China “defends her own interests even beyond her national borders and without considering the sensitivities of its neighbours”, and so “China’s economic, political and military rise is going to continue” and China “is coming to be the second super power next to the USA”.
According to Kamp, China will be capable of “drawing the world order into question, that up to now has been dominated by the USA”. The country was going for the whole world, Kamp writes, and therefore it threatens the interests of all, even those of the European NATO states. “If guaranteeing the security of all its members and defending their vital interests, is NATO’s ‘raison dêtre’ it has principally to face up to all threats against its outer security, no matter from where they originate. If there are dangers developing in the Asian-Pacific area, turning to this respective area will be compulsive”. Kamp proposed a three-step-program in order to contain China. “In the long term”, he writes,” and in case that “China’s world-political ascension will as well materialise militarily, the big European states […] will not be able to evade the task of building-up their abilities for an enlarged power projection as a third step, above all within the maritime area.” Maritime power Germany and Europe? So it would be likely that “a future NATO will regard fighting the dangers in the Asian-Pacific area as one of its core missions.”
Accordingly Kramp-Karrenbauer resumes: “Our partners in the Indo-Pacific area […] feel ever more pressed by China’s claim for power. They are wishing for a clear signal of solidarity […]. It is high time Germany sent out such a signal by demonstrating our presence in the region , together with our allies.”
That sort of talk sounds familiar, and we are reminded of the decades before the First World War, and of what in particular the Britons conjured up at the time: The imminent German peril. Is it to be the Russian peril today or maybe even the Chinese one? And how real is all that, actually? Or is it only new war propaganda and the disguise of one’s own claim to global dominance? People have become sensitive for such questions. A small book only just published by the Frankfurt Westend-Verlag, presents a key paper by the British geo-strategist Halford John Mackinder dating from 1904 translated into the German language: “Der Schlüssel zur Weltherrschaft. Die Heartland- Theorie.” (The Key to World Dominance. The Heartland Theory). Willy Wimmer, former Secretary of State in the German Defence Ministry, added an analysis of the current situation to this book.
Kramp-Karrenbauer and German Politics take an effort to construct the enemy stereotype. The conclusion, drawn by the German Defence Secretary, does no longer sound vague, Germany “was to take up more responsibility in the world”. Only a few ears ago, former Federal President Horst Köhler had to step down after talking of wars for German interests. Kamp Karrenbauer does the same today and goes unpunished. Germany would have to “do more to protect its values and interests”. Germany should “contribute earlier, more determinedly and more substantially”, when it comes to the “solution of conflicts”, which also means wars all over the world: “A nation of our size and economic and technological power, a nation of our geo-strategic position and our global interests must not merely stand apart and look on.” After all, she said, Germany was a “trading nation”, relying on “free and peaceful sea routes.” However, that “was not to be had for nothing”- That was why Germany would have to re-arm. Germany would have to “develop an attitude towards all issues concerning its strategic interests”. Germany had “as any state in this world its own strategic interests, for instance as a globally interconnected trading nation in the heart of Europe”. That was why “Germany would have to act and take the initiative, to transform its interest and attitude into reality.” And “part of that means to scrutinize the staus quo of our security policy. [...]Finally it means to becomre ready to exhaust the range of military possibilities, if necessary”.
And by the way, the Secretary did not at all mention the UN-Charter, neither the equivalence of all sovereign states of the world, nor all states’ and peoples’ obligation to keep the peace and to ban war, codified therein. •
km. “My estimation, however, is that, on the whole, we are on the way to understanding, even in the broadest sense of society, that a country of our size with this orientation towards foreign trade and thus also dependence on foreign trade must also know that in case of doubt, and in an emergency, military operations are necessary to safeguard our interests: for example free trade routes, for example to prevent whole regional instabilities, which will certainly have a negative impact on our chances through trade, jobs and income. All this should be discussed and I believe we are not on such a bad road.”
Because of these remarks made in an interview, Horst Köhler, the former President of the Federal Republic of Germany, had to resign in 2010 after major protests.
Ulrich Preuss, constitutional lawyer in Germany, said at the time: “This is an extension of the permissible grounds for a mission of the armed forces by economic interests hardly covered by the Basic Law.”
The Basic Law has not been changed in this respect. Where is the clear demand for the resignation of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer [German Minister of Defence] today?
However, nine years ago Ulrich Preuss said: “An imperial touch in the phrase is perceptible. It reminds me of the English imperialists from the 19th century defending their maritime supremacy with similar arguments.”1
1 Quotes by Ulrich Preuss: “Der Spiegel” magazine from 27 May 2010
In an address to the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in Berlin on 7 November, Ursula von der Leyen, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s predecessor in the office as German Secretary of Defence and currently President of the EU-Commission, said: “Europe must now learn the language of power”. This was one of the much-cited kernel sentences of her first key address in the new office.”
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