As Germany′s Role Changes, So Does Military | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 01.11.2004
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As Germany's Role Changes, So Does Military

The German defense minister is expected this week to announce the closure of 105 Bundeswehr bases. Though the new German military might not need them, local residents are nervous.


The Bundeswehr: coming to a crisis region near you

A military spokesman confirmed Sunday that Germany's Bundeswehr will shut down more than 105 military bases as part of an overall plan to trim down the country's military forces.

The announcement, which will be made official by German Defense Minister Peter Struck in Berlin on Tuesday, ends weeks of speculation on the fate of the bases.

Military officials said last week that they planned closures in each one of Germany's 16 states. The shut-downs come as the Bundeswehr embarks on a reform that will reduce the number of troops from 280,000 to 250,000 by 2010.

US-like reform

The changes are supposed to reflect the transformation the Bundeswehr has undergone from a national guard to an army serving in peace missions around the world. There are more than 2,000 German troops currently serving in the NATO peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. An additional 5,000 troops are stationed in the Balkans.

Struck, echoing a modern military philosophy shared in Washington, has repeatedly said he wants his military smaller, more specialized and able to deploy quickly.

Germany's larger role on the world stage, evident by its ambitions of winning a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, has meant more is expected of the country than the "checkbook diplomacy" former Chancellor Helmut Kohl exercised in the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Current military structures make the sort of long-term missions currently required of German troops by NATO and the European Union in Central Asia and the Balkans difficult. In addition, mobilizing troops takes too long, say critics, a major problem when rapid troop deployment in crisis regions is called for.

Cuts make locals nervous

In addition to the 35,000 soldiers cut from the army, the Bundeswehr plans to eliminate 10,000 civilian jobs.

Talk of cuts has been a political hot potato in recent months, especially with the announcment by Washington last summer that it will withdraw a large portion of its 70,000 troop contingent stationed in Germany.

Residents of the cities in which the bases were located had protested possible closures. As in the case of US and British military camps in southern Germany, the Bundeswehr barracks and camps help support local economies.

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