An 'Americanization' of German Foreign Policy? Merkel's CDU Calls for Missile Shield for Europe

Angela Merkel's CDU party is about to unveil a major new foreign policy platform -- and it's already drawing heated criticism in Berlin. Other major political parties fear it would mark an "Americanization" of the country's security policy -- with the possibility of "American-style" mistakes.

The conservative Christian Democrats in Germany are considering a security policy proposal that would encourage the creation of a missile defense shield over Europe.
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The conservative Christian Democrats in Germany are considering a security policy proposal that would encourage the creation of a missile defense shield over Europe.

The party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to unveil a new foreign policy platform this week that would have as its centerpiece the goal of creating a missile shield to protect Europe from a nuclear attack, as well as provisions for extended missions by the German military abroad.

The controversial plan by the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) would seek to consolidate more foreign policy authority within the Chancellery, the German equivalent of the White House, by creating a National Security Council within the chancellor's office, which would have "its own staff" with the capacity to coordinate security policy. Critics say it could also represent an usurping of power from the German Foreign Ministry, currently led by Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the center-left Social Democratic Party, the CDU's junior partner in Germany's ruling grand coalition. Currently, the Foreign Ministry takes the lead on most foreign security policy issues.

The crux of the new policy paper, which has been seen by SPIEGEL in advance of its release, is that international terrorism represents the greatest threat to German security. The draft policy also calls for the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, to be deployed domestically in cases of disaster and for the country to at least debate the issue of whether the parliament's constitutionally anchored responsibility for approving any Bundeswehr mandate is still appropriate today, considering the new challenges faced by Germany.

'A Missile Defense Shield over Europe'

Details of the 20-page CDU policy paper, to be voted on this week by the party, are still being developed, but main author Andreas Schockenhoff -- deputy chair of the party's parliamentary group -- gave a preview in the German foreign policy magazine Internationale Politik.

In the essay, Schockenhoff argues for Germany to take steps to better protect itself from the threat of a nuclear attack from rogue states, saying it must support "a missile defense shield over Europe."

Meanwhile, he added, Germany needs to be prepared for "further deployments of the German armed forces that last longer -- from stabilizing peace to forcing peace," he wrote.

The plan is already coming up against resistance from the SPD. The party opposes a missile shield, and resistance within the SPD to foreign military deployments is growing.

"They're trying to shift power in favor of the Chancellery," SPD defense expert Rainer Arnold told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper. "It would be a total Americanization of German security policy, with the risk that American-style mistakes would also be made."

A member of the influential left wing of the SPD went further, describing the policy as neoconservative. "Now we are seeing the true face of the CDU's foreign policy," member of parliament Niels Annen told the Berliner Zeitung. He accused "neoconservative hardliners" in the CDU of following the US government's erroneous security policy analysis, for example in the missile defense debate.

An SPD deputy minister in the German Foreign Ministry, Günter Gloser, told the Passauer Neue Press: "I see no necessity for concentrating responsibilities within a new National Security Council." He said the current coordination between the Chancellery and Foreign Ministry worked well.

'We Are Alarmed'

Meanwhile, the deputy chair of the Green Party group in parliament, Jürgen Trittin, lambasted the plan in the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, saying the Christian Democrats' goal was to reduce the role of the foreign minister to being a mere "figurehead." Trittin added that it was legitimate to further consider the issue of security policy and to be concerned about the security aspects of issues like climate change and access to natural resources, but that this should be done at the European Union level, and not just at the national level.

Guido Westerwelle, leader of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party, told the Flensburger Tageblatt: "We are very alarmed because we fear that the axis of our foreign policy is being shifted massively. What could be most dangerous is if this is preparing the way for regular deployments of the German military on domestic soil."

The foreign policy spokesperson for the CDU's parliamentary group, Eckart von Klaeden, rejected such criticisms. "What we are asking for has nothing to do with taking away authority from the Foreign Ministry or other departments," he said. Security policy today doesn't just include foreign and defense policy, but must also take into account development aid, and environmental and regulatory policy, he told theRuhr Nachrichten newspaper -- portfolios that go far beyond the Foreign Ministry's mandate.

"After the terror attacks of 9/11, we know that internal and external security are issues that can no longer be easily divided," he said. The goal of the National Security Council would be to better coordinate security issues between the departments, he said. "That would be the correct answer to the increased risk of terrorism."

Still, the details of the report seemed to surprise even some within the Christian Democrats. CDU foreign policy specialist Willy Wimmer told SPIEGEL ONLINE he first obtained a copy of the press release in his e-mail on Monday morning. "It is unworthy of a democratic party," he said, to release a paper that would fundamentally change the country's security policy coordination "without a cautious internal discussion." He said it would provide the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, with a "totally changed role in the country."

He added that it created the impression that the report's authors wanted to pick up where Weimer Republic President Paul von Hindenburg left off in the early part of the 20th century. "For people like Hindenburg, the army was a state within a state," he said.

dsl/spiegel/dpa/ddp

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