A Conference about German Foreign and Security Policy took place in late March at Konigsronn, a municipality in Baden - Württemberg, southern Germany. The event was organized by the German Bundeswehr Association, the German Armed Forces Reservists' Association and the Federal Academy for Security Policy. The Konigsronn conference is an event where the issues addressed at the Munich security conference are discussed in a more business-like manner. Unlike in Munich, there are no foreign guests. Volker Wieker, the Chief of Staff (lit. Inspector General) of the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, Dr. Gerd Müller, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, Ambassador Wolfgang, the Bundestag representative for the Bundeswehr Helmut Kenighaus and Henning Otte, the CDU/CSU defence policy spokesman in the Bundestag, were among the speakers. They talked about the growing threat of armed conflicts in the world and the ways to prevent and manage them.
Due to historic reasons the use of armed forces is a special issue on Germany’s security agenda. For 70 years the United States has been closely monitoring the compliance of Germany with restrictions imposed on its military. During the Cold War the German military was created not as German national armed forces but rather as a force under NATO command - the Alliance’s «strike force element» in Europe. Only after the unification of the country German military was sent to take part in so-called peacekeeping missions (the first mission abroad was participation in the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Cambodia in 1992–93).
In the 1990s German politicians solemnly promised that a German serviceman will never step on the land trampled by the boots of Wehrmacht soldiers. NATO attacked Yugoslavia in 1999. Germans remembered about the «duty towards the Allies». Then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joseph Fischer, talked about making Serbs «stand on their knees». Some time passed. In 2014 Germany started to discuss the possibility of sending paratroopers to Ukraine. Not a single German politician remembered that German military should not go to the lands where Hitler’s Wehrmacht committed its bloody crimes.
Step by step Germany is leaving the remaining bans and restrictions behind. For instance; last year Germany broke its word not to send arms to conflict areas and delivered military aid to Kurds fighting the Islamic State, including grenade launchers, machine guns and rifles. Listening to the participants of recent Konigsronn debates one thing stroke an eye. They compared the Islamic State to the «separatists» in the Ukraine’s south-east.
True, some restrictions are still in force. For instance, Germany refused to sell Leopard main battle tanks to Lithuania when it took a decision to modernize its military against the background of «the threat coming from the East.» But right after that the Lithuanian ambassador to Germany was invited to address the German parliament so that he could tell about the threat posed to «democratic Ukraine» by «Russian aggression»
Germany decided it needed the tanks for itself. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has recently ordered to cancel the previous decision to scrap obsolete Leopard tanks. It can be surmised the out-of-date vehicles will be delivered to Ukraine. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble, who had spoken for reduction of military expenditure, said a couple of weeks ago that the defense budget will be increased starting from 2017.
Former Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière used to complain about German pacifism. His successor Ursula von der Leyen knew what to do. Since last year she started to tell Germans about Bundeswehr being poorly equipped (rifles get overheated, ships don’t sail and so on). Now she is sure that Germans started to realize that there is no such thing as free lunch and security is something to be paid for. She likes to cite Henry Kissinger who once said that Germany could not shake off the burden of responsibility.
How does Germany demonstrate that it is responsible and independent? Allowing new US tanks come to Bavaria? Such a prominent figure as Franz Josef Strauss, the chairman of the Christian Social Union, a member of the federal cabinet in different positions and long-time minister-president of the state of Bavaria, did not like the fact that occupation forces were deployed on German soil. 27 years have passed since his death. Nothing has changed. The US nuclear weapons are still based in Germany, no matter in 2009 the coalition agreement reached by the two sides calls specifically for talks with NATO and the US to remove the weapons.
One way or another, the Defense Ministry’s propaganda campaign brings results. According to recent polls, 30-40% of population support the increase of military spending. The government continues the effort. It’s worth to note that besides 400 politicians, military, experts and journalists, 300 ordinary citizens took part in the Konigsronn debates, including 100 school-goers. The propaganda campaign to increase grassroots support for boosting military power also targets young Germans.
Addressing the conference in Konigsronn, Captain Andreas Steinmetz of the German Bundeswehr Association said the Bundeswehr «must be ready to act». Lieutenant General Richard Rossmanith, Commander of the Multinational Joint Headquarters in Ulm, Germany, said the world was plunging into disorder and it was up to Germans to change the trend (!).
Europe should know what words are spoken today in Konigsronn, the homeland of Johann Georg Elser, a German cabinet maker who planned and carried out an elaborate assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler and other high-ranking Nazi leaders, on 8 November 1939 at the Bürgerbräukeller, a large beer hall frequented by Nazi in Munich. A time bomb concealed inside a pillar in the Bürgerbräukeller was set to go off during Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch address on 8 November. Hitler had left 13 minutes before the explosion. Elser was caught by Gestapo at the Swiss border. He was held without trial as a special prisoner of Adolf Hitler for over five years until executed in Dachau concentration camp on April 9, 1945. Today the fact that this year the world celebrates the 70th anniversary of Great Victory over Nazi Germany is hushed up in Germany. This attitude towards history prevails in Germany today. Young Germans will grow up. Will they then know who was Johann Georg Elser and what he gave his life for?