Germany vs. NATO: Playing Hard to Get
The 44th annual Munich Security Conference wrapped up two days of intense discussion last weekend with seemingly no major issues resolved. A significant source of tension and division between nato partners at the meeting centered round the general lack of positive response from EU countries to a U.S. call for more support in the Afghan theater.
More than a hint of major division between nato members had already arisen during the meeting of nato defense ministers held in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, only days prior to the Munich Security Conference. Both these meetings precede and lay the groundwork for the three-day nato summit to be held in Bucharest 2nd to 4th of April.
Till fairly recently the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan had faded into the background due to its being greatly overshadowed by the far more fashionable (to the media) war in Iraq. However, as elections loom in Afghanistan, voices are increasingly being raised in concern at the aggressive return of the Taliban buoyed by a bumper opium crop funding the fresh acquisition of arms and supplies for the insurgents. Concern is increasingly mounting at the very real prospect of the country reverting to Taliban control unless more troops can be committed to that theater.
nato, through its International Security Assistance Force (isaf), currently has a 43,000-strong contingent in Afghanistan, the majority in areas of greatest conflict being U.S. troops supported by British, Canadians and Australians. At the Vilnius conference, nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer stated that this was insufficient to meet the increasing dangers posed by the Taliban revival.
In an effort to stir EU member nations of nato into contributing a greater effort in Afghanistan, the nato chief told those assembled in Vilnius: “There are challenges, we need more forces … the situation in Afghanistan means sharing responsibility and sharing risk” (Reuters, February 7). U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was more pointed in his criticism of elements within nato, declaring “nato was at risk of splitting into members who are willing to ‘fight and die to protect people’s security and those who were not [the EU]’” (ibid.).
With such rhetoric as the backdrop to the annual Munich Security Conference, the heat was definitely on the EU member nations of nato to step up to the plate and accept more responsibility for the security of Afghanistan as the top brass gathered last weekend.
Convening from February 8th to 10th in the Bavarian capital, the conference was opened by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As if in an effort to heighten the sense of urgency in the minds of those attending, the conference slogan was “A World in Disarray—Shifting Powers—Lack of Strategies.” Within this context, the conference organizer, former adviser to ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Horst Teltschik, said, in a view expressed in advance of the conference, that “the number of conflicts in the world was growing and the international community was becoming less certain of how to deal with them. ‘There is a feeling of helplessness,’ he told a news conference. Among the topics under discussion will be the future of nato, Asia, the Balkans, Russia, disarmament and global flashpoints” (Deutsche-Presse Agentur, January 17).
That was a pretty heavy agenda.
Yet, ultimately, the real talk was about the need for greater support for nato engagement in Afghanistan.
Represented among the approximate 250 participants at Munich were 15 foreign ministers and 25 ministers of defense, in addition to nato Secretary General De Hoop Scheffer, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed El Baradei, and Russia’s deputy prime minister, Sergei Ivanov. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung represented Germany at the conference.
Inevitably, taking center stage in discussions at the Munich Conference was America’s request for the EU nations to shoulder more of the burden in what is obviously a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. Germany was singled out by U.S. Defense Minister Robert Gates for particular criticism in this respect. Although Germany had announced on January 16 that it would cross a “magic line” by contributing a rapid reaction force into a potential combat role in Afghanistan (the first such potential combat deployment since the close of World War ii), Gates criticized that nation for only deploying its forces in the safer northern quadrant of Afghanistan, avoiding the southern region of greatest conflict where the U.S., British, Canadian and Australian forces are largely bearing the brunt of increasing Taliban attacks.
In actual fact, Germany is already contributing to the effort in southern Afghanistan, as reported by the journalists for German-Foreign-Policy.com: “The German press conciliatingly points out that already ‘German soldiers—communication, command services—have been operating nearly without interruption since the fall of 2006 in Kandahar, in the south’ [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, February 7]. The Bundeswehr’s Tornados are also flying a disproportionately significant number of sorties over the combat area” (February 8).
Below the surface of this debate between the United States, nato and Germany is an extremely significant strategy being played out by Berlin. It is not that Germany does not want to commit troops to combat in Afghanistan—the approval of its rapid reaction force is proof of that—it is that Germany simply wants a bigger say in the running of the war in Afghanistan. That will simply lead to a bigger say, in turn, within nato. With the future prospect—especially under any future Democrat presidency in America—of a faster drawdown of U.S. troops from areas of conflict, and a corresponding heightened role by nato in those theaters, this would simply translate into increasingly more assertive German military leadership.
That is the whole key to the current nato debate.
Germany is withholding approval of a greater contribution to the Afghanistan conflict as a bargaining chip at the negotiating table in exchange for a more direct involvement and control in the strategic development of that war, and any future deployment of EU troops—for where Germany leads, other EU nations are bound to follow. As German Foreign Policy observes, “As the German defense minister, Franz Josef Jung, announced, the German ‘Quick Reaction Force,’ scheduled for deployment, could well take part in combat missions in the south of the country. But the condition is the explicit approbation from Berlin [not nato, nor the U.S., nor the EU]. This exposes the German/U.S.-American contention, concerning the deployment in the south, to be nothing more than a power struggle, in which Berlin seeks to strengthen her influence over the way the war is being waged. Up to now this has been decided principally by the U.S. military” (ibid., emphasis mine throughout).
On the eve of the Munich Conference, U.S. Defense Secretary Gates sent a sizzling memorandum to his counterpart in Germany, Franz-Josef Jung, urging him to seriously consider the deployment of more German troops to assist in Afghanistan’s southern combat zone. In the immediate wake of the publicizing of that memorandum, conflicting messages emanated from ministers within Chancellor Merkel’s governing coalition indicating a clear divide between those who supported a more active role for Germany in Afghanistan and those who were against it. A more consistent line was pushed by the shapers of public opinion, Germany’s media, a large component of which is owned, and thus influenced, by Bertelsmann, the globalist publishing company that employs the Munich conference organizer, Horst Teltschik, who is assertively in favor of escalating Germany’s combat role in Afghanistan. Bertelsmann was involved in publishing propaganda for the Nazi war machine 70 years ago.
After the “magic line” was crossed, with the official public announcement of Germany’s first token combat force since World War ii being readied for deployment into Afghanistan, the German press started to come out in force supporting the concept of increased involvement of German troops in potential combat roles in that conflict.
In the days leading up to the Munich Security Conference, Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung claimed that criticism from the U.S. and Canada of Germany’s constrained role in Afghanistan was justified; Die Welt wrote in its online edition that Germany’s contribution to isaf is not a favor, but a duty; Bild Zeitung claimed that it was a responsible decision; Süddeutsche Zeitung observed that the Bundeswehr has to fill in the gaps left by the withdrawal of the Norwegians, Czechs and Danes. A hint of German strategy in all of this ongoing debate was given by Die Tageszeitung as it observed that Germany should fight for a new Afghanistan strategy at the nato summit in April.
German media could well become a powerful force in changing the whole postwar mentality and mood of the German people to one of favoring increased German involvement in international conflicts, conditional upon a heightened level of control from Berlin. Afghanistan could just prove to be the thin end of the wedge. The next two months will be crucial for Germany in the preparation of its platform for successfully arguing on both counts at the April nato summit.
One intriguing sidelight to all this is, coming hard on the heels of the Munich Security Conference, this week’s flying, and very timely, visit to Berlin by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The Israeli prime minister has met with Chancellor Merkel and President Horst Khöler to discuss Israel‘s security concerns, principally the threat posed by Iran.
This is Olmert’s second visit to the German hierarchy in 14 months. Deutsche Welle reported that Olmert was “to brief the German chancellor on peace negotiations he initiated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after a U.S.-led conference in Annapolis, Maryland, last November. ‘Germany and the European Union will do everything in their power to support the peace process …. Our goal is that a secure and stable Israel and a Palestinian state can live as neighbors in the region in peace and freedom,’ Merkel said on Saturday in her weekly online podcast” (February 11).
Of perhaps even greater significance was an Agence France Presse report that Olmert would discuss “the serious problem of Iran’s nuclear program,” quoting an Israeli official as stating that “We expect further efforts in terms of economic and political pressure on Iran to renounce its nuclear projects, and Germany is a key player in this” (February 11).
Watch for the April nato conference to shape up as one of the most crucial, in terms of its future, since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The U.S. has already sounded warning bells. In the wake of the Munich conference, EUobserver reported that “The United States has urged European leaders as well as the public to be more supportive of nato-led mission in Afghanistan, a cornerstone of the U.S. war on terror, or the alliance will be ‘effectively destroyed’ by a failure in the Central Asian country” (February 11).
One thing is for sure: Germany holds the aces in this game of playing hard to get. As it stands, this most powerful nation in Europe may choose one of two courses of action. Germany has the influence to threaten a real rift in nato, to the extent that the U.S. could cave in and grant Berlin a greater say in strategy in Afghanistan in exchange for a greater troop commitment from Germany and its fellow EU nations.
On the other hand, Germany has, by virtue of Berlin’s influence on Brussels, the power to work toward creating an unmendable rift in nato between its Anglo-Saxon members and EU member nations, to the point where nato ceases to be of any real relevance in military affairs, thus opening the way for the rise of the much-anticipated combined EU military force to replace it, with Germany at the helm.
Either way, with the decline of the U.S., the time is fast approaching when nato assets and personnel will sport the EU 12-star badge in exchange for that of the old Cold War Western alliance.
It was Herbert W. Armstrong who, well over half a century ago, not only prophesied Germany’s return to military dominance in Europe but also predicted that the Anglo-Saxons would encourage this to the point of handing over their own manufactured weapons to Germany’s control, only to find them ultimately turned back on themselves!
Watch the nato summit in April for profound events that will soon bear on the security of the whole world!
For more insight into this topic, request your own copy, gratis, of our booklet Nahum—An End-Time Prophecy for Germany.