European Affairs

The European Union is now implementing a European Security and Defense Policy, under which the EU will assume crisis management functions and European armed forces will be adapted to meet these commitments. It will not be an easy task.

The EU's aim is to "develop an autonomous capacity to take decisions and, where NATO as a whole is not engaged, to launch and conduct EU-led military operations in response to international crises."

As is now well-known, we intend to make available a joint European corps-size force of approximately 50,000 to 60,000 soldiers, including command and control, air and naval forces, that can be deployed at 60 days' notice and operate for at least a year, starting from 2003.

We do not, however, wish to give the impression that Europe intends to establish its own crisis reaction corps. No separate forces will be formed. The soldiers earmarked for the new joint force will, as far as possible, be part of existing national force structures.

It is very clear to us, therefore, that NATO must play an important role in developing this EU capability. The forces contributing to possible EU-led operations in the future will be the same as those that are assigned to NATO now. We shall mostly be calling on units that have been made available for comparable NATO-led operations. That should not be too much of a problem.

The real challenge lies in the need to restructure national and multinational chains of command, especially because of the impact of modern information technology on command and control procedures. Germany is supporting this process by establishing a new national joint headquarters, the German Armed Forces Command, which can also be used as the operational headquarters of an EU-led operation.

Our thoughts on restructuring the German armed forces are being shaped by NATO's Defense Capabilities Initiative (DCI), which is not only a list of Alliance shortfalls, but also a means to improve interoperability and Transatlantic "cooperability" in the future.

The shortcomings identified under the DCI also reflect what we have learned from the EU's Collective Capability Goals. In terms of effective crisis management, both alliances - NATO and the EU - face the same military requirements.

The twin approaches are thus likely to oblige national governments to adapt their military capabilities to future requirements and make their forces more effective. That will mean more rationalization, more interoperability, and more burden-sharing.

In the light of these developments, Germany has prioritized three capability gaps - strategic transport, strategic reconnaissance, and command and control - as it responds to requirements that have changed dramatically during the last ten years.

Experience from our participation in different crisis management operations has made it clear that there are shortcomings, especially in reacting to crises like those in the Balkans.

The elimination of these problems requires more than simply spending more money, which most European countries could not afford to do anyway. It is more a question of improving the structure of our forces, of rendering them more effective, more flexible, and more deployable, to cope with the most likely scenarios in the future.

Nevertheless, collective defense remains our first goal, and NATO's aims and commitments form one pillar of our force restructuring process. Even though the total number of our soldiers will fall from 340,000 to 282,000, the new German armed forces will still be able to contribute to the full range of crisis responses envisaged by the Alliance with an appropriate force package.

The size of our crisis-reaction forces will in fact increase from about 50,000 to 150,000 troops, while 105,000 soldiers will be employed in supporting functions within our basic military organization.

Another important pillar for the restructuring of our armed forces remains the system of conscription, which plays a decisive role in our concept of collective defense.

The German armed forces would have to mobilize conscripts to reach their planned wartime strength of about 500,000 troops. After restructuring, there will be about 80,000 conscripts in our armed forces, although their terms of duty will be reduced to nine months.

The development of a European military capability is fully in line with decisions taken by NATO, which will remain the primary source of collective security and stability in Europe. The strengthening of the European pillar within NATO, which has for so long been demanded, will strengthen the Alliance as a whole.

The necessary Transatlantic element will be maintained because NATO will have the right of first refusal to conduct possible operations.

Our aim in Germany is to synchronize the restructuring of our armed forces with the implementation of both our European and our NATO commitments. The harmonization and synchronization of these three processes will lead to strengthened "cooperability" on the European side of the Atlantic.


This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number II, Issue number I in the Winter of 2001.