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German Press Review: The Future of the Bundeswehr

German editorialists on Thursday opined about the planned revamp of the country's army for international mandates and domestic anti-terrorist operations.


On it's editorial page, the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung observed that Germany’s defense force has managed to transform itself without becoming obsolete. The Bundeswehr's mandate no longer stops at the external frontiers of Germany or NATO. Under Defense Minister Peter Struck's proposal, the paper concluded, defense operations could take place anywhere in the world where German interests were at stake – and that's a good thing. Given that Germany would be highly unlikely to engage in any military operation that were unilateral or taboo, the daily opined, the proposal is only an aggressor on paper.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung, meanwhile, wrote that the Bundeswehr is facing new realities that it cannot escape. It must now play a more active role in the world -- meaning foreign deployment and participation in anti-terrorist operations within Germany are crucial. However, the paper warned, the proposal is likely to spark a fresh round of debate in Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, over the proposed links between internal and foreign security.

Describing international deployments for the Bundeswehr as "out of area" missions aimed at keeping conflicts as far away from Germany as possible, the Aachener Zeitung praised Struck's plan. But it's editors weren't looking at the issue through rose-colored glasses, either. They warned that an expansion of the Bundeswehr's mandate would also require fresh funding. Currently, the government is only thinking about the additional costs of the personal transports and new weapons that would be required. Still, there are opportunities for the Bundeswehr to save money, the paper concluded, a goal that could be achieved through personnel reductions, sharing work with partner armies and the closure of military bases.

The editors of the Deister und Weserzeitung in Hameln, Germany, commented that the Bundeswehr wants to get involved in the international fight against terror and the evil in the world, which sounds a lot like what U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have been saying in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. At the same time, Struck doesn't want to turn the Bundeswehr into a professional army. So how, the paper asked, would this work with less money? "The government's strategy paper is still lacking a lot of strategy," the newspaper concluded.