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The Battle Over German Armed Forces Reform

5:45 PM, Sep 1, 2010 • By ULF GARTZKE
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Angela Merkel, for her part, has already welcomed zu Guttenberg’s “new thinking” on the Bundeswehr’s future size and composition. That being said, the chancellor is adopting her trademark wait-and-see approach to determine how the CDU/CSU parties will ultimately come down on this crucially important issue before two party convention votes planned for later this fall. The stakes in this battle over German armed forces reform are extremely high. If Defense Minister zu Guttenberg manages to gain enough political support to push through his far-reaching military reforms (“model 4”), it will mark the Bundeswehr’s successful transition from a heavy, Cold War-style army exclusively focused on territorial defense to a much more nimble and lighter force capable of quickly launching effective expeditionary operations (while of course maintaining the indispensable homeland protection component).

The proposed Bundeswehr reforms (including a suspension of the draft) are not only better suited to deal with today’s complex security threats, ranging from terrorism and WMD/missile technology proliferation to global crime networks and piracy. They would also be welcome news for Berlin’s allies, who could, in principle, count on the support of a militarily more capable Germany, both within NATO and within the EU context (the required parliamentary approval for each Bundeswehr deployment abroad notwithstanding). In the wake of the recent economic crisis, huge fiscal deficits are putting severe pressures on defense budgets across Europe, especially France, Germany, and the UK (London might be forced to cut its annual defense spending by up to 20 percent). If Germany can lead the way in terms of adopting politically controversial yet ultimately indispensable military reforms – thus generating more bang for fewer bucks – there is indeed at least some hope that European/NATO members in general can create much-needed synergies in defense procurement and force restructuring based on the notion that not all allies require the full spectrum of defense (industrial) capabilities.

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