Experts from the FMoD, the Bundeswehr, and other ministries discussed new challenges to societal resilience at the “Workshop on the National Security Strategy – Bundeswehr and society in light of the Zeitenwende”. The event was held at the Federal Academy for Security Policy.
On 24 October, the Federal Ministry of Defence (FMoD) and the Federal Academy for Security Policy hosted a round-table discussion for members of the security community at the Academy’s Historic Hall in Berlin-Pankow. Participants hailed from the FMoD, the Bundeswehr, the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community, from associations, think tanks and other organisations, the media and education institutes. It was the third workshop dealing with the National Security Strategy held at the Federal Academy. Its aim was to focus on new challenges for societal resilience and the resulting expectations placed on the Bundeswehr in times of multiple crises.
At the beginning of the event, Lieutenant General Carsten Breuer, Commander of the Bundeswehr Territorial Operations Command, held a keynote address to kick off the subsequent discussion. He said that there was much to do yet in terms of strengthening overall national resilience. If not before, this had been made clear by the pandemic and by the Ahr valley flood – and, more recently, by Russia’s attack on Ukraine. In this context, and to describe this turning point in history, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz had very aptly coined the term “Zeitenwende”, added Breuer, who among other things is responsible for homeland security and civil-military cooperation in Germany. Today, it was necessary to develop new concepts of overall national resilience, he continued. It was not sufficient anymore to simply contain international crises and conflicts. After the Zeitenwende, it was Europe itself that was being threatened, he concluded.
In the discussion moderated by Patrick Keller, Vice-President of the Federal Academy for Security Policy, the significance of the Bundeswehr for Germany’s resilience was talked about in some depth. There were questions both from the audience and from online participants who were following the debate through a video conference.
The overarching topic of the Workshop on the National Security Strategy, “Bundeswehr and society in light of the Zeitenwende” was considered from two different perspectives as part of two panel discussions.
The first panel was entitled “An integrated approach to security and whole-of-society resilience as core elements of the National Security Strategy“. This was discussed considering the following questions: “What is expected of the Bundeswehr?” and “What societal support do the armed forces need given the new threat scenarios?” Celia Norf of the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance gave a presentation on “Crisis management, administrative assistance and civil-military cooperation”. Lieutenant General (ret.) Jürgen Weigt presented his assessment of “Bundeswehr requirements in times of multiple crises”. This panel discussion was chaired by Patrick Keller.
These were some of the results:
Without the Bundeswehr, crisis situations in Germany such as the pandemic or the flood in the Ahr valley would have been unmanageable. At the same time, there are deficits and room for improvement on the civilian side. In the long term, civilian entities must become able to manage crisis situations without the help of the Bundeswehr. The problem encountered in tackling this challenge is not a lack of insight, but a lack of action. Most importantly, exercises must be conducted and the acquisition of skills must be obligatory in the civilian sector.
Other results were: Germany must provide interoperable, effective and rapidly deployable high-end armed forces with rapid reaction capabilities. Germany has a responsibility to act as the largest logistic base and central hub for allied forces in Europe. This has clearly increased Germany’s relevance for the defence of NATO and the EU. It is therefore important that the ambition laid down in Article 87a of the German constitution, to have “armed forces for the purposes of defence”, be filled with life.
The second panel focused on the subject of “Zeitenwende, leadership and public perception”. This was discussed considering the following questions: “How does the Zeitenwende affect public opinion? What does its implementation mean for security policy communication?” and “What could the Federal Government’s strategic communication look like between conflicting aspects of real threats, leadership expectations and traditional role concepts?”
Markus Steinbrecher from the Bundeswehr Centre of Military History and Social Sciences gave a keynote presentation on “Demoscopic findings”, a cursory overview of what, for instance, the population thinks about the Zeitenwende. Sarah Brockmeier of the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt provided information on “Citizens’ dialogue events on foreign and security policy”. Ambassador Ekkehard Brose, President of the Federal Academy for Security Policy, finally gave a keynote speech on “Strategic communication in Europe and in Germany”. This panel discussion was chaired by the Academy’s Sebastian Nieke.
These were some of the results:
According to a recent survey by the Centre of Military History and Social Sciences, the Zeitenwende has caused the biggest shift in public opinion on security and defence policy for many years. National security and the Bundeswehr are considered to be of particular importance. A growing number of Germans see Russia as a threat.
Regarding citizens' dialogue events on security and defence policy, it was said that their methodology should be more strongly oriented towards their purpose. Also, sufficient capacities should be provided for them. Clear expectations should be formulated.
Strategic communication: At the strategic level, communication should be perceived more as an instrument of security policy. The shift in strategic cultures made necessary by the Zeitenwende must result in a new mindset as well. Communication is a key component of this. In the “battle of narratives”, communication about security policy can be a way of fighting back. Coordinated external communication is important, including among partners and allies. Germany’s leading role in Europe must be communicated even more effectively than before. It is important to better communicate not only results, but also the underlying processes.
Concluding the workshop, Colonel (GS) Huber Nahler, chief of branch at the FMoD, thanked everyone for the various suggestions on behalf of the Ministry. He added that the dialogue phase in preparation of Germany’s first National Security Strategy was in its final stages. This Strategy had clear purposes, as underlined by Minister of Defence Christine Lambrecht in her policy speech of 12 September 2022. This expectation had been confirmed by the debate at the Federal Academy for Security Policy, he said: