Germany will become a military power again

Germany as the new world policeman?

"I vow to serve the Federal Republic of Germany loyally and to bravely defend the rights and freedom of the German people." A few hundred new recruits announced this on Tuesday at a festive roll call in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin and other German cities.

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) ran down politically open doors with her desire for a big public pledge. The Christian Democrats are in favor, the coalition partner SPD as well, even Winfried Kretschmann, the Green Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg, had no fundamental objections, although the Greens have long been alienating the military. And the Protestant military bishop Sigurd Rink supported the proposal as a contribution to "removing taboos from the Bundeswehr". Of the parties represented in the Bundestag, only the Left Party was against it.

The minister goes on the offensive: Kramp-Karrenbauer during a troop visit to northern Iraq

Bundeswehr should be visible

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, known as AKK, is aiming for more recognition and visibility of the troops in her move. The Bundeswehr belongs "recognizably and visibly in the middle of our society, in the middle of our cities and communities".

Public vows by the Bundeswehr cannot be taken for granted in a country whose military brought about World War II 80 years ago. When SPD Defense Minister Hans Apel held a vow for the first time in the Bremen Weser Stadium in 1980 and not behind barracks walls, there were violent protests with several hundred injured.

In the early years, the Bundeswehr was controversial in large parts of society

Today, not only the appeals, but also foreign deployments of the Bundeswehr are hardly called into question. Defense Minister AKK goes one step further with her ideas. She regards Germany as a future, including military, "creative power", as she has outlined in several speeches over the past few weeks.

She wants to set up a National Security Council to coordinate the resources of diplomacy, the military, the economy, trade, internal security and development cooperation. It also demands faster parliamentary resolutions on operations and demands that, together with the allies, the "spectrum of military means" must also be "exhausted" if necessary.

From the military and security policy side, there is overwhelmingly approval. Harald Kujat, the former chairman of the NATO military committee, described AKK's ideas as the first correct steps. Wolfgang Ischinger, the head of the Munich Security Conference, also specifically supports the creation of a Security Council.

Too many missions?

But there is also resistance. Hans-Peter Bartels, the Bundestag's Armed Forces Commissioner, thinks the Bundeswehr is simply overloaded at the moment. More than 3,000 soldiers are currently deployed abroad, including Afghanistan, Mali and Niger, the Balkans, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, Jordan and Iraq. In addition, there are far larger NATO commitments in Europe. "The troops are already plagued by bottlenecks," said Bartels.

The Bundeswehr is deployed around the world today

In terms of foreign policy, too, the wind is blowing in the minister's face. She excludes Germans going it alone; in military missions, she wants to act together with the allies. But who are the possible allies? The first choice for Germany is usually NATO.

Has NATO declared "brain dead": Macron, here at the commemoration of the armistice on November 11th. 1918

But of all people, French President Emmanuel Macron recently declared the alliance to be "brain dead" because of the US's insecure stance and instead campaigned for stronger European security cooperation. Chancellor Angela Merkel rebuked the supposedly closest political allies with unusual brusque and declared: "NATO is the central pillar of our defense."

Resignation of a Federal President

In German domestic politics, attitudes towards the Bundeswehr and its tasks have changed significantly over the past ten years. One example of this was the resignation of the then Federal President Horst Köhler. After an interview about the role of the Bundeswehr, he was forced to give up his post.

In 2010 Horst Köhler resigned as Federal President. He was accused of having unconstitutional ideas about the role of the Bundeswehr

Köhler had stated that one had to understand "that a country of our size with this foreign trade orientation ... must know that ... in an emergency military action is also necessary to protect our interests, for example free trade routes". There was talk of "gunboat policy" in the massive criticism that the Basic Law did not allow economic wars.

The defense minister argues not much differently than Köhler back then. Nobody is asking for their resignation. The criticism is directed more against the overloading of the Bundeswehr and less against the principle of a new, larger role for the German military. The fact that Germany should become more involved in the military hardly seems controversial any more, apart from a few votes.