At the June NATO Summit, the Western heads of state and government adopted a new Strategic Concept. In March, the European Union had already presented its Strategic Compass for the Common Security and Defence Policy. Both documents take into account the changed global situation that Russia’s attack on Ukraine has created: War is being waged on European soil once more. The Eastern European countries in particular are confronted with a direct military threat by Russia.
For the first time, the Federal Government is adopting a National Security Strategy. In doing so, the governing parties are implementing a key requirement of their coalition agreement. The document is being drafted in a closely coordinated interministerial process led by the Foreign Office.
The Federal Ministry of Defence, too, is actively involved in the process of drafting the National Security Strategy. In this context, the Ministry together with the Metis Institute for Strategy and Foresight hosted an expert discussion at the Bendlerblock. The event, which centred around Germany in NATO and the EU and the future of these alliances, brought together experts from think tanks, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence.
In the introduction, it was said that the intention of the meeting was to launch a participatory process to develop the National Security Strategy. The experts went on to say that the Russian war of aggression had shattered established assumptions, like the belief in lasting peace in Europe. It was now obvious that security and stability had to be achieved through hard work.
This was the beginning of a fundamental change of our security order, they asserted: Europe had enjoyed peace for decades, now it was forced to deal with a global security architecture marked by conflict. Since only resilient armed forces were able to guarantee peace, nationally and in the Alliance, it was time to initiate a change in attitude in society.
They advised against underestimating the strong signal that the Security Strategy would send, both domestically and internationally, and concluded that Germany had to position itself as a militarily capable leading nation alongside its allies.
By adopting the Strategic Concept and the Strategic Compass, NATO and the EU have sent an unequivocal signal of unity. The experts concurred that the transatlantic Alliance was the most important framework for German security policy and the Strategic Concept also served as a frame of reference for the National Security Strategy.
NATO had stated, for example, that Russia was currently the biggest threat to peace in the world. The Alliance is already involved in a strategic competition for peace and a rules-based international order in Europe and beyond. Hence, NATO remains the cornerstone of European defence. Germany is now taking a lead role regarding the implementation of deterrence and defence within the Alliance.
However, the experts cautioned against neglecting the issue of China and developments in the Indo-Pacific region. The USA would play a more active role in the Indo-Pacific in the future. They inferred that it was therefore in the German interest to keep the US with its valuable contributions to NATO committed to Europe. On the other hand, Europe would have to show greater commitment to promoting its own security interests. Germany was to take a lead role as the backbone of European defence.
The participants stressed that for the EU, too, Russia had become the main challenge. The Strategic Compass had laid the groundwork for a de-facto division of tasks between Europe and NATO in terms of security policy: With NATO focussed on deterrence and defence, the European Common Security and Defence Policy could put a stronger focus on conflict management in Europe’s neighbouring regions, the experts maintained.
In this vein, complementarity of both organisations was particularly important to play to the strengths of both the EU and NATO. The experts pointed out that strengthening Europe’s ability to act in the field of security and defence would ultimately benefit the defence capabilities of NATO as well.