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der Tagesspiegel, Germany

New Security Policies for Europe

By Ingrid Müller

The United States made it clear: Mali is Europe's business. In the future, European Union nations will have to cope without the help of big brother America. But Germany still resists taking a military leadership role.

Translated By Ron Argentati

1 February 2013

Edited by Lau­rence Bouvard


Germany - der Tagesspiegel - Original Article (German)

Germany went confidently into the 49th Security Conference in Munich. Foreign and security policy experts gathered over the weekend there. All the important nations took part, even more than did last year. The Americans could find a no more reliable partner than the European Union as the German defense minister once again emphasized.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden — “Mr. Reset” — was there at the start of Obama's second term because, as conference chief Wolfgang Ischinger put it, Germany stands high on the list of important nations. That may be so, but what the Germans may not find so attractive is what that means: Germany has to do more.

The list of global hot spots and crisis zones that were discussed at the Bavarian retreat was long: Syria (still), Afghanistan and Iran (yet again) and now Mali, as well as other locales that fall under the heading of “cybersecurity.”

Four years ago in Munich, Biden sketched out the American government's march route; on Saturday, European-Atlantic security was again the focal point. The situation has changed for the United States as well since 2009, due not least to the financial crisis. The United States cannot and will not continue to fund a military that often served as a fire department extinguishing global flare-ups. Shale gas production is expected to make the United States independent of Middle East oil. Washington wants to shift emphasis to Asia in order to keep China from becoming too powerful. American interests have also shifted geographically.

For Europe that means: Don't count on America; take care of your own neighborhood. In Mali, it's crystal clear that Mali is Europe's problem. Through NATO, the United States has already sent the expected message: leadership by the European Union and implementation by the European Union even if France alone has already forged ahead.

So the European Union, as well as Germany, has a job to do, externally as well as internally. Those so very reliable Europeans have to decide in the midst of a euro crisis which security policies they want to pursue and how to do that. The fact that a smiling Lady Ashton in Munich had no real power to speak for Europe was the least of the problems.

Can the strategy now be to manufacture new armaments and equip others with them?

Germany must also clarify its objectives. What are German interests, and what should be done about them? At present, it seems that Germany stumbles from one situation to the next, always surprised by what it finds. Take Mali: The foreign minister quickly turns down engagement, while the defense minister simultaneously announces that Germany will soon render assistance by refueling fighter jets and that a parliamentary mandate is necessary to do that. A piecemeal way into war.

At the same time, many politicians aren't unhappy that a majority of Germans think their soldiers will be leaving Afghanistan in 2014, as was shown in Thursday's discussion about the troop level mandate. There will be fewer troops committed (are some of them being diverted to Mali?), but the engagement won't end in 2014. So says the defense minister, but is anyone listening? It's not about just a handful of training personnel.

Could the new strategy be to build more weapons and arm others with them? It sounds good: The main thing would be that the bloodletting in the German army would stop. Of course, a nation must protect its citizens. The question then becomes whether armed drones, while they protect German lives on foreign battlefields along with making them less necessary, don't also promote hatred that culminates in bloody attacks against Germans on German soil. All this is worthy of discussion by our security politicians, especially if it includes regular citizens. But that's all dependent on whether Germany has a plan. Germany wants to act adult-like and be important. The United States already trusts them and the European Union to be so. But Germany has to start trusting itself as well.



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