Main Menu

Germany Marked The 60th Anniversary Of Its Joining NATO

World Affairs

Open Eyes Opinion {source: DEgov}


Germany has marked the 60th anniversary of its joining NATO with an official ceremony in Berlin. Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Federal Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen welcomed many international guests to the Federal Foreign Office, including NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

As special guest, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg underlined Germany’s increasingly important role within NATO. After the long years in which NATO guaranteed Germany’s security, he said, today Germany is no longer a net recipient of collective defence. It is now a critical provider of it.

NATO is an international organisation. The acronym stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a military alliance that embraces 28 states in Europe and North America. When the newly sovereign Federal Republic of Germany joined NATO in May 1955, world politics was marked by the fundamental security policy challenges posed by the Cold War. The collective defence of member states was held to be the overarching purpose of the alliance. The geographical position of the Federal Republic of Germany on the front line between East and West meant that it required special protection. The shift in NATO’s strategy in the 1960s away from “massive retaliation” to a “flexible response” marked a change in the alliance’s understanding of security.

Trust and responsibility

With the words, “I’m not saying we should seek greater responsibility; I’m saying we already have it,” Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier underscored Germany’s role within the alliance. In his speech he looked back at the trust that NATO vested in the fledgling German democracy in 1955. Only ten years after the barbaric reign of terror of the National Socialists, the North Atlantic community showed West Germany “the way back into the civilised world”.

It was only this firm alignment with the West that made possible the peaceful reunification of Germany “as a free sovereign country with a firm place among the world’s great democracies”. The country that started the conflagration of the Second World War, having “been a destroyer of order, has a duty today to play a special role in building an order that safeguards peace,” he said. In NATO, Germany is “no longer simply a partner with equal rights; we have equal obligations too”.

Difficult dealings with Russia

German security policy too is based on the principle of collective solidarity as laid out in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. With a view to the Ukraine conflict, and strained relations with Russia, Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for realism to prevail. “As things stand, restoring the spirit of partnership will not be a one-hundred-metre sprint, but is more likely to resemble a marathon.”

Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty stipulates that, “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all”.

The Federal Foreign Minister warned that although the blocs that defined the Cold War have ceased to be, “it seems, the old reflexes from that era are still in place”. Frank-Walter Steinmeier continued, that this makes it all the more important “to keep our responses lighter on the reflexes and heavier on the nuance and the far-sighted strategic thinking, giving less priority to short-term media impact”. He added, “We need to watch out now to stop everything being torn apart that we so carefully and painstakingly built in our European order over the last several decades.”

Pillar of a stable European order

The North Atlantic alliance has proven a valuable pillar of a stable European order, stressed Frank-Walter Steinmeier. And it is “a unique forum of transatlantic cohesion”. Germany intends to use its OSCE Chairmanship in 2015 to explore ways of preventing further entrenchment in Europe and keeping open the option of bridge-building, he said.

“Deterrence and détente” remain the cornerstones of Germany’s policies, said the Federal Foreign Minister “for the good of Germany, Europe and Euro-Atlantic security”.

We must invest in security

Federal Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen considers it crucially important that NATO act decisively. In this context the interoperability of capabilities is important “such that they can be called up and deployed at any time. This prevents delays and saves time-consuming planning processes.” The financing of NATO is also a particular concern of the Federal Defence Minister, “We must invest in security. Spending must be increased in view of the endurance of material and personnel, and structures will have to be modified accordingly.”

In the closing discussion with experts from the fields of foreign and security policy, there was special emphasis on the need for transparency in the policies of the alliance. Against the backdrop of the many and diverse crises and media reporting this is important in order to ensure acceptance of the measures of the alliance.

Long and chequered history

“We have accepted the task of establishing our own armed forces to protect our own territory and the West, because we consider it natural that the Federal Republic of Germany, as a sovereign state, contribute to the common defence of its own territory and of the West with its own troops.” (Konrad Adenauer, May 1957)

The so-called “NATO double-track decision” was particularly important. It provided on the one hand for negotiations with the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) on the mutual limitation of intermediate range ballistic missiles. Should the talks fail, however, more medium-range nuclear missiles were to be deployed in Western Europe.

NATO in transition

What form was the “united and free Europe” announced at the 1990 NATO summit in London at the end of the Cold War to take? During reunification the German government made it clear that NATO membership for the new united Germany was non-negotiable. Twelve more Eastern and Central European states have since joined NATO. In 1993 the Partnership for Peace Programme provided a separate instrument for networking state and transnational actors in terms of security policy. The NATO-Russia Council, which was set up in 1997 as a mechanism for consultation, also mirrors the increasingly important idea of cooperative security.

During the term of office of the only German Secretary General of NATO, Manfred Wörner(1988 – 1994), a new phase of Germany’s engagement within the alliance began. It was more than anything else the crises in the Balkans, which firstly called for a stronger European role within the transatlantic alliance, and secondly brought with it a new understanding of NATO as an instrument in international crisis management, even outside the territory of member states. NATO invoked Article 5 (collective security) of the North Atlantic Treaty for the first time in its history in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As a result in 2003 NATO assumed command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, in which up to 50 states were actively involved. Germany provided one of the largest troop contingents. ISAF ended on 31 December 2014.

The NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, which focuses on support and training, will continue and be modified to bring it into line with the changing security situation in the country.


Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015

Comments are Closed