No. 5 - Oct. 1994
Vol. 42 - pp. 3-7


Dr. Klaus Kinkel
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany

With its judgment of 12 July 1994, the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe clarified the constitutional basis for the deployment of German forces abroad with the result that the Bundeswehr can in future fully participate in UN, NATO and WEU missions. Thus a key objective of the Federal Government's foreign and security policy has been achieved, a result which, as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Free Democratic Party, I had done everything in my power to bring about. I have, therefore, fulfilled a promise which my predecessor, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, had made in his statement before the UN General Assembly in 1991. Following reunification and the restoration of our full sovereignty, Germany is now fully capable of playing its role in international affairs and of meeting its Alliance obligations.

In a special session on 22 July, the German Bundestag, as prescribed by the Constitutional Court, gave parliamentary approval to the current Bundeswehr participation in NATO's monitoring operation in the Adriatic and in the AWACS (1) mission to help enforce the banon flights over Bosnia-Herzegovina. In so doing, the Bundestag also lifted the restrictions which had been imposed on the deployment of the German units involved because of the unclear constitutional situation. Soldiers from Germany and other NATO states taking part in these operations are therefore now subject to the same guidelines, and have the same rights, duties and responsibilities.

Thus, the question of the deployment of German soldiers above and beyond the defence of Germany and the NATO area has at long last been clarified, removing any constitutional objections to German participation in UN, NATO or WEU peaceful missions under the authority of the UN Security Council. This is not limited only to peacekeeping missions but also clearly includes peace-making operations.

Our country is no longer threatened from outside and remains firmly anchored in the Western security alliance based on shared values. For the first time in our history all our neighbours are allies or friends and there are no unresolved border issues which might sour our relations with any of our neighbours. This, too, is unique in Germany's history and represents a tremendous gain in stability for our country and for the whole of Europe. In order to consolidate this situation, it is necessary that Germany, which for the last 40 years has served the cause of peace in Central Europe in close cooperation with its allies, now be willing to do so in other parts of the world, and that German unity be followed by European unity.

For decades, the preservation of peace was the overriding goal of all Federal Governments, overcoming the division of Germany into two states always having been secondary to this objective. National unity became a viable proposition only with the prospect of its being achieved by peaceful means. With the Cold War ended and the preservation of peace no longer a function of East-West conflict, Germany must extend its commitment to peace. That is what I mean when I speak of "extended security".

Since 1989, the Western community of values has spread eastwards. Now we must do all we can to ensure that this community of values also becomes a community of security and stability. The old East-West division must be replaced by a situation in which all European countries form one common security area. Differences in economic performance or societal traditions cannot be resolved overnight, but we can and must prevent them from becoming a new source of political enmity. We must not allow new divisions to be created to replace the walls we so successfully tore down!

A value-oriented foreign policy

The Federal Republic of Germany has consistently called for international legal norms, as laid down above all in the Charter of the United Nations, to be strengthened and implemented. Our world is getting smaller thus we urgently need effective rules governing peaceful relations among peoples. A spark can easily flare up into an uncontrollable blaze and anything which occurs on one continent has an effect on the other five. No country is an island, no country can stand idly by today when aggression or brutality rage.

Germany pursues a value-oriented foreign policy whose core is human rights. No one can stand on the sidelines when peace is disturbed by violators of the law, when human dignity and the individual's right to life are ignored. This is part of Germany's experience: he who fails to resist totalitarian claims and aggression in time will have to pay for it more dearly later. Precisely because Germany brought war upon the world 55 years ago, it seeks to serve peace all the more consistently. As is written in the preamble to our constitution, Germany is "animated by the resolve... to serve world peace as an equal partner in a united Europe".

Those who claim to oppose war but who are not prepared to resist warmongers by force of arms if necessary can in truth neither create peace nor protect human rights. The international order, like the internal order, must be capable of defending itself against deliberate trouble-makers. This does not, however, mean a militarization of German foreign policy: the culture of restraint will be maintained. Germany cannot and will not play the world's policeman and its military options will remain limited in factual and political terms.

In 1984, the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic together had about 700,000 soldiers. Today, the Bundeswehr's authorized strength is 340,000 or less than half the strength of 10 years ago. But only certain sections of the rapid reaction forces, a total of not more than 50,000, will be involved in future peace missions.

In accordance with the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, the Bundeswehr is engaged in destroying large quantities of conventional equipment, thus, its stockpiles of matériel will fall considerably below former levels. At the same time, there are, in addition, qualitative aspects to these reductions. The Bundeswehr has not up to now been in a position to take part in international peace missions in remote areas, as it lacks suitable equipment as well as the necessary basic and special training. It will take time to build up properly equipped and trained units. A peace mission, as we see illustrated nearly every day, makes new psychological and physical demands on soldiers which differ from those arising from their traditional defensive role. Germany hopes to be able to exchange experience with other nations and to cooperate with them in creating the relevant training and exercise facilities. In my statement before the United Nations in September 1993, I made specific suggestions in this regard.

The Bundeswehr has in exemplary fashion accomplished the task of combining two armies which, only five years ago, had been adversaries, and shaping them into a unitary, comradely force. Integrating the National People's Army of the former GDR into the Bundeswehr was a masterly achievement in both organizational and psychological terms. However, this process is still far from complete. The Russian forces have left behind huge military installations. Taking them over and finding other uses for them will be a laborious process. Such internal tasks resulting from German unity will, to a considerable extent, absorb the Bundeswehr's energies.

Preventing conflict

One thing is clear: the use of military force will only be an option where it is permissible under international law and is politically inevitable. It will continue to be the ultima ratio. Measures aimed at preventing and defusing conflicts will increasingly come to the fore. This, too, requires military capabilities, but they will be tightly bound up with political, diplomatic, economic and humanitarian efforts - for example, early identification and resolution of conflicts, observer missions and preventive disengagement, as well as proliferation controls. Anything done in good time in these areas will obviate the need for the global community to resort to military force to protect or restore law and order.

For this reason, Germany will increase its non-military efforts towards conflict prevention. Germany already provides about two-thirds of the stabilization aid for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). It is the UN's third-largest contributor and bears the largest share of the costs for the European Union's aid programmes. We are a sympathetic development partner and, due to the transformation processes in our eastern federal states, we can offer our experience in this area. This can be of benefit to countries which are likewise facing the task of transforming a command economy into a market system. Our special commitment to the east, however, in no way weakens our traditional links with the south.

Our history has imposed on us a special moral responsibility for preserving peace. At the same time, however, it explains why Germany must observe particular restraint in using military force. This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the decisive events which led to Germany's defeat in a war unleashed by Germany itself. The memories of this time remain equally vivid in the minds of those who made great sacrifices for the victory of freedom and of those who were forced to serve as the helpless tools of the Nazi war machine. For 10 years after the end of the war, the Federal Republic of Germany had no armed forces of its own. For half a century no German soldier has taken part in life-and-death acts of war.

Even now that the question of constitutional admissibility has been answered, the issue of when and to what end German soldiers are to be deployed in situations other than national and NATO defence remains highly explosive. No matter where such a mission takes place, it will set a precedent with far-reaching implications. It must be firmly accepted at home and abroad. It would not be in the interest of either Germany or Europe, nor would it benefit peace, if future German participation in armed missions were to undermine the trust in Germany's peaceful nature which, since 1945, has become the basis of an ever closer relationship between democratic Germany and the former enemies of the Hitler regime.

The government and parliament will not now use the new options hastily or automatically. The fact that Germany can in future take part in peace missions does not mean that it is pushing to the fore: there will be no cries of "Germans to the front". The call for German participation in peace operations will probably exceed our capabilities and we must not allow ourselves to become overstretched in this new situation. Each individual case requires careful consideration. There must be an organic, evolutionary process in order to gradually flesh out the new scope for action, both internally and externally.

Principles of participation

Nevertheless, there are principles and considerations which will be significant in deciding on the participation of German soldiers in future peace missions.

  1. Participation in international peace missions will not be an option unless it is clearly permissible under international law. Only in this way can there be a guarantee that such missions safeguard, rather than cause new violations of, international law;

  2. Germany will never undertake peace missions alone but only in conjunction with other partners, primarily under the aegis of international organizations such as the UN, the CSCE, NATO or WEU. Moreover, these organizations themselves are in a state of transition. For example, it will be vital for NATO to gain new scope for action through the development of the concept of Combined Joint Task Forces;

  3. Each of the following questions would require a plausible answer: Is there a clear mandate? Does the military action form a meaningful part of a comprehensive political solution? Are the available resources sufficient to enable such a mission to succeed? Is the envisaged aim proportionate to the destruction that may be caused in achieving it? Are there clear prospects of success and thus a feasible time limit? And are there provisions for the unexpected failure of the mission? The Somalia experience was in some respects a warning;

  4. The greater the likelihood of combat, the more cogent must be the reasons for German participation. The greater the risk for our soldiers, the higher must be the values at stake. The soldiers - and also the people at home - must be able to perceive the risks demanded of them, which could include risks to their lives, as meaningful and acceptable;

  5. The participation of German armed forces in international peace missions must be approved by parliament. This fact was expressly underlined by the Federal Constitutional Court. In view of the political significance of such missions and the possible dangers to the soldiers, it is desirable that a consensus be reached across the political spectrum before German troops participate in any such mission. Service in the cause of peace should have a unifying effect and not be the cause of renewed controversy;

  6. German participation must not exacerbate a conflict. This could be the case, above all, in areas where strong animosity persists from the period of German occupation during the Second World War. For this reason, the Federal Government rejects the direct participation of German troops in peace missions in the former Yugoslavia since their presence might lead to an escalation rather than a calming of the situation.

Germany owes its unity and present status in the world to the trust we have built up with our consistent policy of conciliation and readiness for compromise. This trust is our greatest asset. We must not carelessly jeopardize it by committing ourselves to adventures which could reawaken dangerous misunderstandings among our friends and neighbours. Germany's policy will remain consistent and calculable. Our reluctance to use military force has been, and will continue to be, part of this calculability.

(1) The NATO early warning and control aircraft.

© Copyright by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation 1994.