The German Chief of Defence, General Eberhard Zorn, advocated a “National and Collective Defence Mindset” at the Army Noncommissioned Officer School in Delitzsch, Saxony, on 22 September.
He called for the Bundeswehr to be made fit for national and collective defence in all areas by 2031. Saying this, he also had the upcoming budget negotiations in the German Bundestag in mind, he declared. As far as the equipment and personnel strength of the forces was concerned, Zorn added: “We must stay on the ball.”
While national and collective defence was a traditional, well-known task of the Bundeswehr, a new mindset had to be applied to parts of it, the highest-ranking member of the Bundeswehr claimed.
The Chief of Defence had deliberately chosen to visit the rank and file of the forces at the Feldwebel Boldt Barracks in Delitzsch. He was visibly at ease among his troops at the Army Noncommissioned Officer School that morning. Zorn addressed his words particularly to the SNCOs and SNCO candidates. It would be mainly up to their generation, he said, to face the challenges of national and collective defence. Zorn placed particular emphasis on a dialogue with his troops. He also answered questions that were posed via live chat during the debate.
In his speech, Zorn said in plain terms that deployments abroad would continue. While soldiers would continue to need these to gain experience, they should also be able to “hit the ground running” whenever national or collective defence tasks were called for. He added that it was national and collective defence that should guide their thoughts and actions. Addressing first and foremost the superiors present, he said that “action” was the order of the day, advising them to “stay true to yourselves and stay human”.
Zorn went on to explain why national and collective defence was now occupying centre stage. While Germany was no longer a frontline state, it was a central hub for Allied troop movements, a staging area and, in large parts, a rear area of operations, owing to its geographical position at the heart of the European NATO area.
Even though – unlike during the Cold War – no large-scale tank battles were to be expected, dynamic tank action could not be entirely ruled out, the Chief of Defence added. Hybrid activities and attacks from cyberspace that are difficult to attribute were the most likely, he went on.
While personal equipment and Bundeswehr equipment in general was improving, Zorn cautioned that there was still some way to go. Even though it might be impossible to procure everything the Bundeswehr was “planning or wishing for” just yet, it was necessary for the forces to be prepared and work with what was available, he said.
“It is a fact that national and collective defence are already part of our job description.” He went on to explain that to ensure national and collective defence, Bundeswehr personnel had to always be prepared and to accomplish their mission even under less than optimum conditions.
“Most of all, we need the right mindset”, Zorn stressed. “If you are mentally prepared for and have internalised national and collective defence, you will also succeed on deployments abroad.”