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We Must Review the Tasks of the Bundeswehr

We Must Review the Tasks of the Bundeswehr

Speech held by the Federal Minister of Defense, Dr. Peter Struck, at the 39th Munich Security Policy Conference on the future role of NATO, February 8, 2003. Source: German MoD, Bonn, Germany.

Dr Struck interviewed by Phoenix TV (Photo E-S)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the NATO summit in Prague in November 2002 the countries of the Euro-Atlantic community avowed their firm commitment to the transatlantic partnership:

Without the United States of America there can be no security in and for Europe, and this will continue to hold true in future.

At the beginning of the 21st century, NATO is still the irreplaceable foundation of security in Europe, the alliance for collective defence and the forum for transatlantic consultation.

Furthermore, the Prague Summit has taken the Alliance a great step forward: in future it will have enhanced capabilities to take action beyond the borders of the Alliance territory. This means that threats to the Alliance area and our population can effectively be kept at bay.

I would like to emphasise the following individual points:

Opening the Alliance to seven new members extends and consolidates the European area of stability and strengthens NATO.

The intensification of our relations to a number of countries on the basis of partnership, including Russia, contributes to the security of the Alliance and increases the opportunities for co-operation beyond the boundaries of the Alliance.

A focused capabilities initiative, the "Prague Capabilities Commitment" (PCC), in which individual Allies have made firm and specific political commitments, improves NATO's capability to react and take action. It puts NATO in a better position to deal with complex hazards and threats, whatever their origin.

This includes both better protection against weapons of mass destruction and ballistic means of delivery and an Alliance contribution to combating international terrorism.

A new NATO command structure will increase its efficiency and scope of action, thereby maintaining the political coherence of the Alliance even with its increased number of 26 members.

The creation of the "NATO Response Force" (NRF), a multinational, rapidly deployable reaction force, enhances the reaction capability and hence also the credibility of the Alliance in a vital respect. It especially underpins the transformation of NATO to an Alliance which can take swift action when the security of its members is at stake.

These landmark decisions made in Prague present great opportunities, but also involve far-reaching commitments.

The future of the Alliance is determined to a considerable extent by the way in which individual members make their contribution. This applies to Germany as well, and I would therefore like to say a few words on this subject.

Germany is integrated into NATO with its armed forces more than any other partner to the Alliance. Being one of the European countries in the Alliance with a strong economy and also being the most densely populated of these, Germany will continue to play a leading role and accept responsibility regarding the future course of NATO.

The Federal Government is only too aware of this special responsibility, which it will face up to in solidarity with its partners.

In view of the difficult financial situation of our government budgets, of which everybody is aware, added to the strict stipulations of the Stability Pact for the Eurozone, we cannot, however, pursue any gilt-edged solutions.

Let's be realistic: no European country can spend anything like as much money on defence as the USA. We Europeans have therefore resolved to pool capabilities and resources and, wherever possible, to seek multinational solutions.

There is great potential here for improving efficiency which we are still far from exhausting.

In the long term, we will and must set up armed forces which are integrated within Europe as well as being interoperable with NATO - for our own benefit and for the benefit of the Alliance.

To achieve this aim, we will further improve and develop the military capabilities of the European Union in conjunction and coordinated with the new NATO capabilities initiative. By so doing we will create a strong Europe for a strong transatlantic community.

The meaning of intelligent co-operation in this sense is illustrated by an initiative which we have taken in the context of NATO in order to bridge existing gaps in the area of strategic airlift.

We, i.e. Germany and ten other NATO countries, signed a Statement of Intent Strategic Airlift at the Prague Summit.

We wish to make available to the Alliance an airlift capability which will bridge the gap until delivery of the AIRBUS A-400M European transport aircraft in the seven countries participating in the programme.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite all the opportunities open to us to give the decisions taken at Prague shape and content through multinational projects, there is still plenty of homework for us to do at national level.

For us this means: we are vigorously pressing ahead with transformation of the Bundeswehr into armed forces oriented on deployment!

Much has been achieved already through the ongoing reform:

We have streamlined Bundeswehr structures and optimised the command and control organisation for deployment. The number of deployment forces has been increased from 50,000 to 65,000 personnel.

We have thus made it possible for some 10,000 German servicemen and -women on six international missions to promote stability in the mission areas and to help secure the peace there.

This means that after our American friends we provide the most troops world-wide for international missions.

In the years to come we will gradually increase the number of deployment forces to approximately 150,000 personnel. We will then be in a position to make a substantial contribution to the NATO Response Force, as well.

These successes do not mean that we can lose sight of the fact that we have not yet achieved one of the cardinal goals of the reform:

Despite the significant progress we have made, we have not yet managed to strike a balance between the tasks, structure, equipment and resources of the Bundeswehr.

The radically altered security environment together with the lessons we have learned so far in implementing the reform as well as the orientation of NATO and the European Union to a changed threat situation permit only one conclusion:

We must review the tasks of the Bundeswehr and reassess the entire procurement planning process and other parameters which have a bearing on the structure.

We are therefore pressing ahead with the reform of the Bundeswehr and orienting the armed forces more consistently than before towards the most likely mission spectrum.

  • What does that mean?

For years now, the reality of Bundeswehr operations has been primarily determined by tasks in the context of international crisis prevention and crisis management. It is therefore imperative that this is reflected in our structures, strengths, capabilities and equipment. Otherwise our armed forces will time and again be stretched to their limits due to structural and materiel deficits.

The consequences for further action are as follows:

What is called for now is a clearly defined conceptual and defence policy basis for the mission, tasks and capabilities of the Bundeswehr plus further development of the reform. For this reason the Defence Policy Guidelines for the area of responsibility of the Federal Minister of Defence, which were last elaborated in 1992, are being rewritten. I will issue them in a few weeks' time.

In this context we will concentrate procurement and equipment planning on a more capability-oriented overall approach in future, with all the services being taken into account. It will give greater consideration to the requirements of multinational missions across a wide spectrum of operations.

For this reason I have paved the way for procurement and equipment planning, including research and technology, to be completely revised and priorities to be newly identified; this applies to all projects in progress and those to which we are bound by contract.

These steps to further develop the reform of the Bundeswehr ensure that the transformation of the Bundeswehr will continue to be in line with the transformation of NATO and the general trend of the European Union's security and defence policy.

Moreover, the continued efficiency of the Bundeswehr is thus ensured and hence, too, Germany's ability to take action.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At this point I would like to give you a brief outline of an aspect which is fundamental to our ideas concerning the Defence Policy Guidelines:

The point which is of critical importance is the radically changed security environment as compared with earlier decades.

It is no longer the powerful countries which are our prime cause for concern, but the weak ones, non-state actors and asymmetric threats.

There is no longer a danger of a direct military attack on our territory by conventional forces in the foreseeable future.

The combination of unresolved political, ethnic and social conflicts and international terrorism, organised crime and the increase in migration has a direct impact on German and European security, even from a considerable distance.

More and more states and non-state actors are seeking to procure weapons of mass destruction and ballistic delivery systems and are thus undermining both regional and global security.

Chemical, biological, radiological or even nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists are one of the greatest threats of our times.

Against this backdrop, the mission spectrum of the Bundeswehr has changed fundamentally over the past few years.

We are therefore quite right to assume that in the foreseeable future the focus of Bundeswehr tasks will be on multinational missions beyond our borders. This must be consistently reflected in its structures and capabilities.

I recently spoke about "Defence in the Hindu Kush". The fact is that defence today comprises more than defence at national borders, although as a general rule national defence must continue to be possible as well.

Our defence must be in keeping with the times and cover the following:

  • first, the prevention of conflicts and crises,
  • second, joint management of crises and
  • third, post-crisis rehabilitation and participation in reconstruction and "nation building".

Hence our commitment in Afghanistan is vital not just because we are helping the people of this devastated country to improve their prospects for the future after decades of war and civil war.

It is rather in our best security interests to deprive international terrorism, which poses an immediate threat to us all, of its most important retreat and training area in the long term.

Our missions in the Balkans, too, were necessary mainly to prevent nationalism from regaining a foothold in South East Europe and thus seriously jeopardising stability and security in Europe.

These examples illustrate how fundamentally the security situation has changed since the end of the last century.

These days, it is not possible to define defence in geographical terms. We must meet the threats to security "from wherever the challenges may come" - as it says in the Prague Summit Declaration issued by NATO.

To sum this up in one sentence: defence today means preserving our security wherever it may be at risk - in conformity with the principles of the Basic Law and in line with the United Nations Charter.

It is on the basis of this understanding of defence that we are orienting the Bundeswehr of the future as well as the institution which is central to our security interests, i.e. NATO.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

May I just make a few concluding remarks regarding the future role of NATO in combating international terrorism.

Tomorrow I am flying to Kabul with my Dutch colleague, Henk Kamp, where we will attend a ceremony on Monday on the occasion of the transfer of command over the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to headquarters elements of the Ist German-Netherlands Corps.

Considerable progress has been made in returning the country to political and social normality, nevertheless strong international commitment is still called for in view of the state which the country is in, the immense ethnic and social tensions plus the latent danger of the Taliban, which have still not been fully defeated. This is why it is also vital to find an acceptable successor to ISAF III from October 2003.

With ISAF III, NATO is already providing valuable support in the decisive areas of reconnaissance, communications and information processing. For practical and operational reasons we should assign NATO greater participation in the follow-on operation.

In view of the fact that only a limited number of countries are capable of taking over strategic command of ISAF, it makes sense to formally determine that the responsibility be shouldered jointly and to exploit the unique capabilities of the Alliance.

We must not forget one thing: the stabilisation of Afghanistan, the consolidation of a multiethnic government committed to national reconciliation, the creation of favourable conditions for economic development and a democratic society are crucially important if we are to succeed in combating the scourge of international terrorism.

I will therefore ask President Karsai whether he has any objections to the NATO flag flying in Kabul - and I cannot imagine that he has.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).