Taking our Security into our own Hands

If raw material imports were used as political leverage, would we be prepared? No. Neither could we protect ourselves if it came to drone and cyber-attacks on our data networks. Russia’s actions in Ukraine have made it clear that, in this new epoch, even national defence could once again become a priority in Europe. After all, open societies can hardly be completely protected from terrorist attacks. Germany seems ill-equipped for many of the new security tasks. However, we are a strong and reliable international partner, even if we frequently operate modestly.

Of course, a country needs a functional army for all of this, to close ranks with partners, for the Western defence alliances’ capacity to act, for peacekeeping operations within the framework of the United Nations. In addition, the reduced calculability of US foreign policy actions requires the strengthening of European security structures – at the end of the day, a European security architecture. Germany must examine its defence and security budget and potentially adapt it. Additional funds do not necessarily need to be spent on new tanks. It would already make a big difference if the existing material were functional and soldiers could be assured optimal protection in their current sixteen deployments. Furthermore, security-policy innovations are necessary to ensure security in virtual spaces and provide protection from cyber-attacks.

This modernisation will cost money, but a lot is at stake if we do not want to entrust the US, Great Britain, France, and the smaller countries in Europe with the sole responsibility of defending the international order, peace, and security. Common security policy must especially be coordinated at a European level; incompatible weapon, security, communication, and procurement systems are expensive anachronisms of European security policy which also undermine its effectiveness. Furthermore, international disarmament efforts must be strengthened: for nuclear weapons, for cyber systems – a maximum limit on military spending as a share of the GDP is conceivable; it could be set at two per cent and decreased if the development of international security systems progresses. Does Germany need to act as the driving force here? From an external perspective, certainly: as one of the winners of globalisation, Germany bears great responsibility for security and peace in Europe and the world.

Settling our personal bill for peace at the end of the Cold War made us unreceptive to new risks. We wanted to believe in the end of history, in which all countries are free, democratic, peaceful, and market-oriented. This perception met one of population’s widespread desires: understanding Germany as a large Switzerland, as a country that stays out of conflicts and international entanglements to the greatest possible extent. The attacks of 9/11, the Ukraine conflict, and the massacres in Syria, Libya, and Yemen have made it abundantly clear that this is not an option. Germany is certainly doing a lot to fulfil its international responsibility: from participating in peacekeeping operations to its considerable expenditure on development cooperation, foreign cultural policy, and the promotion of democracy. But is it utilising these actions sufficiently to actually improve the framework conditions for peace and security?

We should not sit idly by in the run-up to 2030. Germany’s and Europe’s capabilities in the areas of ­conflict detection and resolution must be adapted to the new realities within a few years.

In this context, Germany must not only strengthen its efforts in defensive and alliance capabilities, but also increase the entire budget for foreign relations: in development, foreign, and security policy. If we raised combined expenditure to the three per cent mark, this would represent a major step towards shaping the world, taking international responsibility, and proving our interest in shaping international policies.