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German government presents first national security strategy

June 14, 2023

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz unveiled the country's first "National Security Strategy." The plan envisages more coherent foreign and security policies to prevent Berlin from being wrong-footed by geopolitical events.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz poses for a picture with Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, Finance Minister Christian Lindner, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser and Defence Minister Boris Pistorius
The German chancellor and his coalition presented the long-awaited strategy in BerlinImage: Fabrizio Bensch/REUTERS

Chancellor Olaf Scholz and members of his Cabinet on Wednesday presented Germany's long-delayed national security strategy, with the aim of avoiding past mistakes that have left the government red-faced.

Although Germany has had policy documents in the past covering security, it has never had a dedicated comprehensive strategy.

What the Cabinet members said

Scholz pointed out that since his government had agreed to build a strategy, Europe's security architecture had changed radically. He cited Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the ongoing war, and the destruction of critical infrastructure such as the Nord Stream pipelines as providing a new impetus for pushing ahead with the plan.

"I emphasize all the events to make clear how starkly the security environment has changed for Germany in the past one and a half years," he said.

"Despite all the changes, it remains the core task of a state to ensure the security of its citizens," the chancellor added.

Scholz pointed out that, while the past policy documents focused on defense, the new strategy would focus more on foreign policy.

The chancellor emphasized the importance of Germany being supplied with raw materials safely and permanently.

Germany gets first comprehensive national security strategy

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock agreed it was clear that a stronger focus was needed on security since Russia's invasion.

"All of us had to learn with the brutal war of aggression of Russia against Ukraine that freedom and peace do not fall from the sky," she said.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner said Germany aimed to reach its 2% defense spending target from next year.

However, he said the goal could only be met with special funds, otherwise massive savings or tax hikes would be needed.

Why is this happening now?

Scholz's three-party government agreed to create a more comprehensive strategy in its coalition pact in November 2021, and the proposal gained more traction when Russia launched the war in Ukraine in February last year.

The war exposed deficiencies in the German military, the country's overreliance on Russia for energy and questions over how critical infrastructure such as gas pipelines could be protected.

NATO set to launch military exercises over Germany

Critics say Germany has been too complacent as new global threats emerge, with authoritarian states such as China and Russia proving to be increasingly assertive.

The document is the result of months of canvassing opinions from experts and laypeople at a district, state, and national level in a process led by the Green Party-fronted Foreign Ministry.

The coalition had originally agreed to finish drafting the plan within its first year in office, but inter-party and ministry disputes along the way meant it was delayed.

Among the most contentious issues was the idea of a National Security Council, which was eventually abandoned over concerns it would upset the power between the chancellery and ministries.

rc/fb (Reuters, AP)

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