Trends in German Defense Policy: The Defense Policy Guidelines and the Centralization of Operational Control

  • June 01, 1994
  • Dr Thomas-Durell Young

Like most of its NATO allies, the Federal Republic of Germany has undertaken a massive restructuring of its armed forces. The end of the Cold War, the need for unified Germany to assume responsibility for its security, and the current economic recession have made German defense planning extremely difficult. Bonn is also under pressure to reorient the Bundeswehr (Federal Armed Forces) from a defense force organized to deter war in the Central Region to one with deployment capabilities similar to those of other comparable powers. However, countervailing domestic and external political pressures have impeded this reorganizing effort. Internally, even a clear political consensus regarding the use of the Bundeswehr has yet to emerge in Bonn. German participation in peace operations and international humanitarian missions has yet to gain wide political support, let alone participating in military campaigns in support of national interests outside of the immediate defense of German territory. Notwithstanding defense planning efforts undertaken to date by the current Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union/Free Democratic Party coalition government, the resolution of this debate is essential before definitive planning can be undertaken. In the sagacious words of Clay Clemens, "The major consistency in German political life for at least three decades has been the tendency of all the mainstream parties to shape policy together in an incremental, consensus-building process. Thus, until the time when an all party accord is reached in Bonn, Germany's defense structure will remain provisional." Externally, the rest of Europe continues to cast a wary eye over this new iteration of "ein Deutschland." As the largest member of the European Union and possessing an enormous economic potential, the Federal Republic may increasingly come to dominate European affairs. Moreover, if Bonn were to maintain the Bundeswehr at a peacetime ceiling of 370,000, as referred to in A