• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Is Germany shying away from global role?

J. Arthur White · 2 May 2014, 12:20

Published: 02 May 2014 12:20 GMT+02:00

German soldiers, sailors and pilots are currently participating in 15 operations in some of the world's most dangerous conflicts.

But most of their missions are confined to support and training missions, as well as peacekeeping operations that do not involve German soldiers in combat roles.

The recent Mali mission is a typical example. While French soldiers fight directly against insurgents, Germany is mainly concerned with training up Malian forces, providing paramedics and helping with air transport.

The German navy also patrols the Mediterranean and enforces an arms blockade around Lebanon, while a handful of German peacekeepers monitor tense conditions in war-torn regions like Darfur, South Sudan and Kosovo.

The prime exception to this general non-combat rule is the Afghan mission, where 2,490 German soldiers are still active in the northern part of the country, the capital Kabul and bases in neighbouring Uzbekistan.

Initially concerned with training and "peace-building," German troops were forced to adapt to changing conditions in the North, military analyst Eric Sangar of the Institute for Strategic Research (IRSEM) explained.

"In Afghanistan, rather against its own will, the Bundeswehr was involved in heavy combat operations starting in 2007. So it had to become a fighting force," he said.

The only other mission where German soldiers are at least authorized to take offensive action is in anti-piracy operations around the Horn of Africa, but Sangar said this was a very rare occurrence.

Still, the Afghan experience has forced the German army to prepare itself for a “full spectrum of operations”. The reluctance to take a more active role comes more from the top of government, which "is still very hesitant to engage the Bundeswehr in operations that carry a greater risk of loss of life," Sangar told The Local.

Another factor is public opinion, which differs greatly from that in more bellicose countries like Britain and France. Germans are much more sceptical about what force can achieve in world politics.

"This is in part a result of the Second World War experience, but it also reflects a more general political culture in Germany that is more consensus oriented - that prefers negotiation to unilateral decision making," Sanger said.

This scepticism found a strong expression in German opposition to the Iraq war, where the German public did not see a direct threat to European interests and was not convinced that democracy could be imposed at gunpoint.

Recent statements by Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, President Joachim Gauck and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier have given an impression that Germany may take on more international responsibilities, but Sangar is doubtful that this will translate into more robust military interventions.

"Maybe they'll send more troops to UN missions or to the Baltic States, but this doesn't mean there's a political will to use military force. There would still be more reluctance to send thousands of troops to a country that just exited a civil war," he said.

SEE ALSO: Germany hands Kunduz camp to Afghan security

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

J. Arthur White (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'Hero' refugee hands in €150,000 he found in wardrobe
Muhannad and the secondhand wardrobe. Photo: Minden Police.

A refugee from Syria found a huge stash of money in a secondhand wardrobe he bought. But keeping it for himself would have been a betrayal of his religion, he said.

Istanbul airport bombing
Flights from Berlin to Istanbul cancelled after terror attack
Turkish police block the road after an suicide bomb attack at Atatürk Airport in Istanbul. Photo: EPA.

All flights from Berlin's Tegel airport to Istanbul have been cancelled after a suicide bomb attack killed at least 36 people in the city's major airport.

German extremist groups 'getting bigger, more brutal'
A violent demo in Frankfurt in 2015. Photo: DPA

Political extremism rose sharply in Germany last year - among far-right but also far-left and Islamist radical groups - the domestic intelligence agency said Tuesday.

Berlin puts spies on tighter leash after NSA scandal
An installation of the BND in Bavaria. Photo: DPA

Germany on Tuesday approved new measures to rein in the activities of its foreign intelligence agency after a scandal over improper collusion with the US National Security Agency.

Brexit vote
There's no way back for Britain, says 'sad' Merkel
Angela Merkel (r) and David Cameron in Brussels. Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the EU summit in Brussels late on Tuesday that she didn't see any way that the British decision to leave the EU could be reversed.

Brexit vote
British business owner in Germany: why I support Brexit
Alexander McWhinney, owner of The English Shops. Photo: Private.

Scottish business owner Alexander McWhinney tells The Local why he supported the vote for a Brexit despite being an expat - much to the surprise of employees at his stores in the Rhineland.

Germany seeks seat on UN security council
The United Nations Security Council. Photo: DPA

Berlin last had a seat at the highest table of international security in 2011-12. Now the Foreign Minister has announced that Germany wants the role again.

Brexit vote
Merkel: Britain can’t cherry-pick Brexit terms
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that the EU could survive a Brexit and warned Britain the union would not tolerate "cherry-picking" in upcoming negotiations on their future relations.

This film makes Darmstadt look more romantic than Paris
The Russian Orthodox Church in Darmstadt. Source: City, Light and Movement.

Not quite sure where Darmstadt is? A short film shot by a Syrian refugee will have you rushing to locate it on a map.

VW agrees to $14.7 bn payout in US emissions probe
Photo: DPA

Volkswagen has agreed to pay out $14.7 billion in a settlement with US authorities and car owners in the probe over its emissions-cheating diesel-powered cars, court documents showed Tuesday.

Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
US expats: Taxes are due June 15th
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Sport
How to sound like an expert on German football this summer
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
Features
6 reasons Germany's summer is unbeatable for thrill-seekers
National
The future belongs to these 10 German regions
Society
How pictures of footballers on chocolates made Pegida really mad
Health
New father's tragic herpes warning touches 1000s online
7,865
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd