At their first personal meeting, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Lloyd J. Austin discussed current challenges in security and defence policy. Consultations focused on the transatlantic relationship, the role of NATO, the engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and joint operations.
The first meeting between German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and her U. S. counterpart Lloyd J. Austin took place in an atmosphere of friendship today. The retired army general was the first member of the new Biden administration to visit Germany for a personal meeting.
The talks served to discuss the future course of the new United States administration and a new transatlantic agenda in security and defence policy. Both sides emphasised the long-standing friendship and partnership between Germany and the United States. German and American troops are deployed side by side in many operations.
Kramp-Karrenbauer welcomed the restart of transatlantic security and defence policy. She said that more than ever, current challenges required us to stand together. Germany was aware of its central role for the future orientation of NATO. The aim was to strengthen EU ability to act, complementary to NATO.
To this end, the NATO strategic concept and the EU strategic compass should be aligned, she said, as both were building blocks of the future DNA of security policy. Austin also declared that the United States was prepared to work together very closely with Europe. The United States would remain 100 percent engaged in NATO.
,,I owe special thanks to the United States for its indispensable contributions to security in Europe and in the entire Atlantic area“, the German minister said to her American counterpart, adding that the U. S. presence in Germany and Europe was an important pillar supporting freedom and peace in the region.
,,I am delighted to hear of my U. S. counterpart’s intention to not only halt a further withdrawal of U. S. forces from Germany, but to actually increase their number by 500 additional troops“, Kramp-Karrenbauer said. The U. S. troops are earmarked for United States European Command.
According to the minister, this is a sign of Germany’s significance as a location and base, but also an illustration of mutual appreciation.
,,We are making targeted investments and are offering our capabilities”, the German minister said. A strong NATO serves Germany’s security and interests – just one of the reasons why Germany is strongly committed to NATO’s two percent goal. Germany has increased its defence spending by nearly 57 percent compared to 2014.
The German armed forces will once again display their (operational) readiness when Germany assumes a central role in leading the 2023 VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force – NATO's rapid response force – with modern and agile brigade-size task forces. In addition, three fully equipped and mission-ready army divisions will be on standby by 2031.
Both defence ministers agreed that they want to act together and in a coordinated manner in response to current Russian exercise activities and troop movements in the border region with Ukraine.
,,We very much agree that NATO has to be extremely vigilant and respond to these developments in a determined and well-coordinated fashion. We will remain in close touch on this matter”, Kramp-Karrenbauer said.
Kramp-Karrenbauer called for all actors to commit clearly and unambiguously to the conditions of the ceasefire as well as to adhering to the Minsk Agreement, and to respecting the work of the OSCEOrganisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe Special Monitoring Mission. Germany shares the concerns of NATO partners, but currently sees no acute military threat. Any escalation should be avoided.
Kramp-Karrenbauer and Austin also discussed possible cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. ,,This region is becoming ever more relevant to international stability”, Kramp-Karrenbauer said. Germany, too, has vital interests in this region. The deployment of the frigate „Bayern" in the second half of 2021 will be a visible sign of the Indo-Pacific policy of the German Federal Government in action.
Germany is seeking a close dialogue with the United States and aims for sustainable engagement beyond 2021. ,,We want to support our partners in the region that share our values and champion the rules-based international order together”, the minister concluded after the meeting with her U. S. counterpart.
Both defence ministers deemed a withdrawal from Afghanistan by 30 April 2021 to be unrealistic. Germany will closely coordinate the next steps with the United States and all other troop-contributing countries. Kramp-Karrenbauer welcomed the US initiative that brought new momentum to the stalled peace negotiations. There was consensus that – depending on the situation and the conditions in the country – the mission in Afghanistan should be concluded in an orderly and responsible fashion. Kramp-Karrenbauer said that given the increased threat level in Afghanistan, Germany continued to rely on special military capabilities provided by the United States.
Kramp-Karrenbauer reassured her colleague that in the fight against international terrorist groups and structures, Germany would continue to be engaged in training security forces in Iraq. Austin deployed to Iraq twice during his career in the armed forces, most recently in 2010 as Commanding General of United States Forces – Iraq.
Defeating the terrorist militia Daesh remains the overarching goal. With respect to the missions and operations in the Sahel region, both defence ministers said that safe havens for global terrorism must be eradicated.