Berlin′s stance on Libya has isolated Germany in NATO | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 13.04.2011
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Berlin's stance on Libya has isolated Germany in NATO

Can the internal strains among major NATO allies be overcome or could it be that diverging national interests and backgrounds of key allies such as Turkey, Poland, Germany and the US will make it increasingly difficult to come together under the NATO umbrella?

You have begun to see over the last two or three years that Britain, France and the United States have a very close strategic relationship and tend to see global threats in a similar way. And they are the three most capable allies militarily, have been in the past and are today. As long as these three countries stand and cooperate together I think NATO will remain strong.

The fact is that we are committed to each other's security. The NATO countries need each in order to survive in a very dangerous world and we see that we are useful and sometimes can make a great difference in a conflict outside of our own geographic area. We did it in the Balkans in the 1990s. We made a great difference in Afghanistan. I think it's good that NATO is there and now let's hope that NATO can succeed in Libya. And if NATO can succeed in Libya and be effective in helping to protect civilians and at some point help end this war then I think it will be a very useful contribution and I think people will understand that NATO remains a very important institution for the future.

How can NATO increase the pressure on Gadhafi as you have suggested without ground troops which seems inconceivable for various reasons?

I don't think ground troops are an option here. You have already seen that as NATO assumed full command and control of the operation from the United States, there appears to have been a noticeable decrease in the intensity of the air operation. The United States seemed to be more aggressive in leading the attack against the Gadhafi forces than the NATO command has been. And so one of the options for NATO is to add more planes, add more intensity to increase the tempo of the military operation and in order to put greater military pressure on Gadhafi. That's an option NATO needs to reflect on very seriously.

But doesn't that mean that the US would need to step up its participation in the mission, because France and Britain probably can't muster any more and Germany is not taking part?

It would be helpful if Germany could reconsider and join the military operation. If that is not possible will have to look for other allies. Spain, Italy, the Netherlands are very capable allies who could add to that effort. Canada is another country in that group. It would more of a burden on Britain and France of course. The United States sees itself in reserve, but I don't discount the possibility of the European members turning back to the United States to say we need you to come in. We need you to add greater support so that these air operations can be more effective.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said that Berlin was willing to support a humanitarian mission in Libya, perhaps as part of an EU mission. How do you interpret this offer by Germany's top diplomat and what would you expect from Germany now?

I think a humanitarian mission is essential because of the many refugees and migrants who had to make their way both to Tunisia as well as to Egypt to flee the fighting. So there will be a great need for countries to step forward with finances and material to assist the refugees and I think it's obviously a positive offer by the German government.

I do think that Germany finds itself in this situation quite isolated from within the alliance. Its refusal to support its allies has engendered a lot of criticism, even bitterness, on the part of those allies. And it maybe that the German government is trying to mollify its critics in the alliance by saying if we can't participate in a military fashion perhaps we can participate more intensively on the economic and humanitarian side. I would think that this is probably the motivation for this offer. It's understandable and if Germany cannot support the operation militarily at least it should take a leading role on the humanitarian side.

Interview: Michael Knigge
Editor: Rob Mudge

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