As the German army heads to Congo to secure polls, German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung spoke to DW-TV about the mission's challenges, the looming soccer World Cup and the Iran crisis.
German peacekeepers will be heading to Congo under the auspices of the EU
The German army is to be sent to the Congo soon in order to secure the upcoming general election there. But why should Germany lead the peacekeeping force? Africa is not exactly familiar territory to the German army or Bundeswehr.
German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung
The fact is that the UN has asked the EU to help safeguard Congo's elections. It will be a European mission under European leadership. The deployment is to be directed from the Bundeswehr command post in Potsdam, but the European Union will be responsible for leadership of the whole operation.
Do you think there's still a lot of political reservation among Germans towards the Congo mission?
Well, there was initial discussion that a battle group of 1500 German and 4 French soldiers would carry out this mission. There have been discussions about the make-up of the force. We also consulted military advice, because not enough other nations, including European ones, were willing to take part. Since then, though, the effort has gained momentum. And I hope and pray that this will result in a mission with a primarily deterrent effect. It's meant to help secure the election and pave the way for democratic development in the Congo.
The German parliament also has its doubts. Many legislators are going to vote against the Congo mission. Is Germany's security being defended in Kinshasa?
I assume that the great majority of Bundestag deputies will vote in favor of the mission. And of course there are German interests at stake here. Africa neighbours Europe, and we have to expect more migration stress. The Straits of Gibraltar are quite narrow and I think that we as both Europeans and Germans have a security interest in promoting stable development in one of Africa's biggest countries. The Congo is more than six times the size of Germany. Establishing a democratic government and stable and peaceful development there would have a positive effect on the entire surrounding region. And that's why I think it's in our security interest to support this European mission, to support democratic development and ensure stability.
Some 7,000 German troops are currently stationed abroad, mainly in the Balkans and Afghanistan. How much scope do you have left for new missions?
The German army is keeping the peace in Afghanistan
In terms of future Bundeswehr structure, we've planned 35,000 combat troops, 70, 000 stabilization troops, and 145,000 support personnel. The current planning for the overall framework of foreign missions is moving toward 10,000 so we still have scope to provide support. But I also want to add that in the Balkans, where we have over 3,000 troops, we hope we will soon see progress in the Kosovo status talks and in elections in Bosnia Herzegovina, so that we can start thinking about possibly reducing our presence.
Is the Bundeswehr of the future going to be an intervention army?
The Bundeswehr too has developed in different ways within this transformation process. We used to be an army for territorial defense. When I was a recruit, I experienced our last red alert, when the Soviet Union marched into Czechoslovakia. After unifying the force, we've become a more operational army. And therefore we have a different function, and different tasks. We help defend Germany through our foreign missions, but we also provide aid and assistance within our borders, during natural disasters or major accidents. We've made some real contributions in that respect, whether during the massive snowfall in Bavaria, or during the bird flu alert on the island of Rügen, or the recent flooding in Saxony and Saxony Anhalt.
External and internal security can no longer really be treated separately in the age of globalization. Do you think the Bundeswehr should provide security at home from time to time? During the upcoming World Cup perhaps?
There's furious debate in Germany over whether the army should pitch in to help the overstretched police force
Yes, I think so. Within our constitutional mandate, in case of major accidents, a natural disaster, but also for preventive deployments during the World Cup. We've already received 100 requests for assistance. So we've expanded our capacity from 2,000 to 7,000 soldiers to provide WMD protection at all venues, and to help with first aid. The troops will also be active in air transport, in a logistical capacity, and as military police. We'll also be operating AWACS planes for surveillance, to make sure the World Cup takes place under safe conditions.
You mentioned the constitution, which places tight restrictions on the armed forces. Disaster aid, support during major events... is that enough for you politically?
No, we need further constitutional clarification because the
Constitutional Court has ruled that in case of air attack, only the police can be used according to Article 35, meaning that of disasters, of major accidents. We can ward off airborne attacks only with the air force, which means using military means. The same applies to seaborne attacks, where the navy is necessary. We need a fundamental clarification here. Earlier the principle was that soldiers are responsible for external security and the police for domestic trouble. Today you can't separate the two, because given asymmetrical threats, given terrorism, you have to expect attacks from the air. You have to expect WMD attacks. And you have to have a response ready. Our foremost
job is to protect the people, and we have to do our job.
Do you think there's a serious danger that the conflict over Iran's nuclear program may be resolved with military means?
All our efforts must be directed at reaching a diplomatic solution. And I am very hopeful that we will achieve that. If, as a first condition, we stay together, including in the Security Council, the EU 3, the United States, Russia, and China. I think that's a very important and decisive point. And I hope we will make even more progress, because Iran has no interest, it cannot have an interest, in being globally isolated, and that's why I'm confident we'll succeed with a yes to peaceful use of nuclear energy, but no nuclear arms.
Condoleezza Rice has begun referring again to a coalition of the willing, and judging by reports from Washington, planning already seems quite advanced on destroying Iran's nuclear program, for example through air strikes.
Iranian President Ahamdinejad remains defiant about his country's nuclear ambitions
It's been the case that Washington has always taken part in the negotiations, including those going on now within the Security Council, and what we've agreed on as our common approach. And I think we'll continue to make progress in this way. And it should be our goal, our task, to make sure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons. Not a single sanction has been imposed yet. And if we want to solve the matter diplomatically, I think that would be the right way.