10/29/13. NATO Accepts Germany’s Reform Plan. Richard Palmer, thetrumpet.com
“Germany used to take the back seat within NATO. Now the whole alliance is signing up to the German vision of its future.
A German plan to rebuild NATO around several core nations received broad support at a meeting of NATO defense ministers on October 22.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, NATO has been struggling with an existential crisis. What does an anti-communist alliance do now that communism has been defeated? The Europeans have been losing interest and cutting their defense budgets, leaving America to pick up the slack. But now America doesn’t want to pay, doesn’t want to entangle its military in foreign struggles and is pivoting away from Europe, toward the Pacific.
Last week, Germany presented its solution: Rebuild NATO around what Germany called a “Framework Nation Concept.”
Europe’s military would be divided into clusters. Individual nations would no longer have to maintain a balanced military. They would be free to specialize, but overall, each cluster would have all the necessary defense resources.
These clusters would be built around a “framework nation”—one of Europe’s larger militaries. This nation would lead the cluster and provide a broad and balanced military as a foundation for other nations to build on. These framework nations would probably include France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy.
This set-up has already been tested, in a limited way, in Afghanistan. In northern Afghanistan, Germany runs the Regional Command, and leads other nations, like the Dutch. Germany’s plan, however, would take this cooperation to the next level, seeing nations pool their military resources and jointly develop new weapons and technology.
Initially, France staunchly opposed the idea, not wanting to erode its sovereignty and capability to defend itself. Spiegel writes, “Only shortly before the ministerial meeting did the French relent.” Britain also supports the plan, and it could be approved at next year’s NATO summit.
Germany has never been a real leader in NATO, so it is unusual to see the alliance rally around a German idea. The Atlantic Council of Canada, an independent think tank focusing on NATO, writes:
Perhaps the strangest thing about the proposal is its origin. Considering its demographic and economic weight, Germany has never had the strongest voice in NATO. This is due to a deeply seated aversion to military conflict by the German population at large due to obvious historical reasons, as well as the very founding idea of NATO, which was, among other things, to “keep Germany down,” in Lord Ismay’s famous words.
However, this situation may be starting to change. While Germany notoriously declined taking part in Operation Unified Protector in Libya in 2011, it continues to have a large number of troops deployed to Afghanistan, and has signaled its intent to keep a significant contingent of troops there after the drawdown in 2014 as part of a NATO training mission.
These writers conclude: “This may just be the dawn of a new era for Germany in NATO, which, were it to commit itself more fully to the Alliance, would go a long way toward reinvigorating the Alliance.”
The plan is strikingly similar to one put forward earlier this month by the Konrad Adenaur Foundation, a think tank closely associated with Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (cdu). It called for Europe to form “islands” of defense cooperation. The Trumpet also reported on Germany’s push for similar structures back in August.
This idea of “islands of cooperation” or “clusters” is evidently something Germany is very keen on. Their leadership here goes beyond NATO. Over the last year, Germany has emerged as the leading nation pushing for military reform throughout Europe.
Despite the plan’s broad support, this may go nowhere. NATO has already agreed on proposals, only to have its members ignore them. But Germany’s ambitions are clear: Whether it is through NATO, through the EU or through its own bilateral agreements, Germany wants to fundamentally change the structure of Europe’s military.
For the last 70 years Europe’s security has revolved around the assumption that America will guarantee its security. That assumption is no longer valid. America is encouraging Europe to stand up on its own two feet and build a strong military.
Creating a European army at one stroke has proven impractical. But with America in retreat, military reorganization is now vital for Europe’s security. So Germany is pursuing the next best option: its “islands of cooperation,” or “cluster” strategy.
Germany is taking the lead in getting Europe ready for this new post-American world. The end result will be a newly powerful Europe, with Germany at the helm.
For more information on Germany’s efforts to rebuild Europe’s military, see our article “Under Construction.”