Germany’s ‘holistic’ national security strategy postponed again 2023

Germany has awaited its first national security policy for months. Another delay. The initiative is generating government discord.

Germany’s new national security plan was delayed again. Since February, the federal cabinet had anticipated to approve the document by mid-June.

May 25 federal parliament discussion was canceled. Germany’s new China policy, like so much else, was to be based on the national security plan, so when German and Chinese government leaders meet in Berlin on June 20, Germany will not be able to convey it.

Security approach is ambitious. Germany is proposing to unify its foreign and security policy under “integrated security,” a concept based on the idea that security policy is more than simply military and diplomacy.

“Many things factor into security: From education policy to health policy to environmental, nutrition, and finance policies,” said Social Democrat politician Johannes Arlt, a former German military major. “There are many dimensions to security.”

“Life freedom security”

In 2021, when Europe was at peace, Germany’s coalition government of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens, and the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) formed a new plan.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock formally initiated the development phase of the new policy in mid-March 2022, three weeks into the Ukraine war. Baerbock stated that the strategy’s objective was “security for the freedom of our lives,” requiring defensive capacity, resilience, and sustainability.

Conservative opposition supported the initiatives. Thomas Erndl, CSU Bundestag politician, told DW: “If we examine the threats facing us, hybrid threats, supply chains, dependency – even when it comes to medicines, it is clear that we need a holistic approach to find answers.”

Government still at odds on crucial subjects

“But of course there needs to be an actual result,” Erndl says. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen it.”

The opposition lawmaker believes that “the government is not united on key issues,” despite Germany’s heritage of “important foreign policy decisions are made with great unity.”

The administration and Foreign Ministry, which is developing the plan, may have been under too much time pressure. Antonia Witt of the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF) said that it is a complicated process with numerous players.

“It involves a wide-ranging process of communication inside the government, but also with the people and specialists,” she added, “about what the security issues are, which threat scenarios we may expect in the future and by what methods Germany intends to accomplish its security policy goals. That’s crucial political process.”

The political scientist said the plan must “also cover many politically contentious issues” because it impacts all policy sectors.

2% hack backs

Newspaper reports say 36 pages of the national security policy are finalized, but not all. Reuters reports disagreements over arms exports and cybersecurity. The FDP-led Justice Ministry opposes “Hackbacks”—allowing hack victims to respond.

NATO’s 2% GDP military spending objective is another issue. “There was the question of whether there should be a direct balance of military and non-military spending,” Witt stated. That is if one euro spent on the military should be invested in non-military initiatives. Crisis diplomacy and development cooperation.”

Another idea to create a national security council to coordinate agencies during crises has languished.

The chancellery and foreign ministry sought to house the security council, according to Witt.

Despite these problems, Arlt is comfortable about the delays in delivering the national security plan and keen to focus on the likely outcome: “A security strategy should of course help things to ultimately move faster, for decisions to be made more quickly,” the lawmaker stated.

“That is also why I now do not see it as a weakness that we keep postponing it for a month and then another month,” he continued. Our process is new. It’s worth waiting for a good product.”

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