Cover Story "More Europe"
The political battle continues. The Germans and the French refuse to accept the superiority of the United States, not even after the war in Iraq. Berlin and Paris are planning the development of a 60,000-man intervention force. The end of German compulsory military service is approaching.
Happy days for Joschka Fischer: The hectic life of pre-war diplomacy has given way to his beloved pastime of jogging. During the past few days, the 54-year-old has already been seen four times in his jogging gear at Berlin's Plötzensee.
Gruesome days for the German foreign minister: Every morning at nine, his staff briefs him on the situation in Iraq in the ministry's underground situation room. His worst fears are coming true: The US military appears to be stuck in its tracks in the desert, and civilian casualties are multiplying. It has never been so painful to have been in the right, murmurs the foreign minister, with a worried look on his face.
However, Fischer and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder do intend to take advantage of their temporary status as bystanders on the global political scene. What is at issue is no less important than "the question of a new world order after the end of the Cold War," says Fischer. This also means that German foreign and defense policy must be reorganized.
The government, says Schröder, must draw consequences from the failure of its plans for peace. His guiding principle is "emancipation" and his goal is "more Europe." This week, the Chancellor intends to issue another official policy statement, the fifth in a legislative period of only five months thus far. The topic: Germany, Europe and the war in Iraq.
Questions of historical significance are coming to the forefront in Berlin: Is Germany's return to the global stage, 58 years after the end of World War II, possible or even necessary? What will be the future role of Germany's relationship with America, and how tightly and with which degree of sovereignty must the alliance with France be configured? What will be the political consequences within Germany if the country does in fact develop a professional military force to be deployed in global interventions?
The preparatory work has already begun. In the Foreign Ministry and the Federal Chancellery, officials are already working on formulating a "new German foreign and security policy." At the same time, Defense Minister Peter Struck is honing the guidelines for the German armed forces.
For the first time, Schröder and Fischer, whose previous actions were generally spontaneous, have taken the bold step of formulating policy that extends into the future. According to a member of the administration, Germany has developed "its own position" and has prevailed in the global power struggle, and the country must now define its role "as an actor on the global political stage."
This policy begins with a conclusion that could hardly be more serious: America has turned away from large portions of Europe and the global community. In spite of continuing resistance within its own administration, the law of the more powerful has replaced the law, says Schröder. To President George W. Bush, the UN is an annoying debating club and NATO a relic of the past. America's own military might has become the measure of all things.
An icy wind is currently blowing from Washington across the Atlantic. Since February 7th, reports an insider from the Elysée Palace, no talks between Bush and his French counterpart Jacques Chirac have materialized. Schröder's last conversation with the White House was on November 8th.
Even during the first hours of war, the German chancellor was kept completely in the dark by American government authorities. Like millions of other citizens, he too was forced to view the images of war on television in the early morning hours a political humiliation. The US ambassador to Berlin, Dan Coats, speaking to a small group of people, referred semi-ironically and in a play on the UN resolution on Iraq to a "material breach" in relations.
For this reason, Schröder and Fischer are not planning any conciliatory gestures, and certainly no offers of financial assistance. March 20th, the day on which the first bombs fell on Baghdad in opposition to a majority at the United Nations represents a turning point, explains the foreign minister.
Outlines of the new course developing in the dialogue with Paris are already evident: In the wake of the US' solo move, the United Nations are to be restored to the key position in world politics. As French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin stated on Friday, it is a "principle and a necessity" that the UN have its say in Iraq. As an advisor to the Chancellor explains, "the more UN, the easier it is for us to participate."
On the same day, the Security Council agreed, after lengthy debate, that at least food aid will be distributed by the UN and not by the United States. In Iraq, the Americans would have liked to have seen themselves as the saviors of Iraqi civilian society.
The reformers' biggest tasks await them in Europe. To ensure that the continent "grows up," as Fischer recently preached to members of his Green Party, its nations must prepare a joint threat analysis and put into practice what has so often been evoked: European military cooperation. The joint objective is to develop an intervention force of about 60,000 troops, as was already resolved at the EU summit in Helsinki in 1999. If this plan had already been implemented, a European intervention force consisting of about 80,000 soldiers, including roughly 18,000 Germans, would be ready today.
But reality has not kept pace with these ambitious plans. Although a small military staff and a military panel based on the NATO model do exist in Brussels today, a powerful leadership team remains just as absent as an intervention force ready for deployment.
Along the long road to creating a European military force, officials in Berlin are already considering that each state would not necessarily need its own army, air force and navy. In Germany, for example, Finance Minister Hans Eichel already suggested some time ago that the country could do without its own fleet, and the resulting turmoil was tremendous.
As officials at the Federal Chancellery and Foreign Ministry have realized, Germany's compulsory military service would tend to be a hindrance to a European military force. Only a professional army could be deployed worldwide. "The decision-making process needs to be accelerated now," says an advisor to the Chancellor.
Germany's conscripts, numbering about 100,000 each year, cost about a billion Euros. With the same funds, Berlin could pay about 30,000 professional soldiers to maintain its forces at a level of about 200,000 troops, or it could use the money to better equip an even smaller army.
A professional military will not be less expensive. To make a professional army attractive, the state would have to increase military pay. 62 percent of regular and professional soldiers still fall within the lowest pay groups (A7 to A9).
At the urging of the Belgians, the details of a European professional force are now being discussed again. Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt wants to more closely mesh the military forces of Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Germany. He has invited Schröder and the two other heads of state to attend a special summit in Brussels on April 29th to discuss strengthening the "European column" within NATO.
The EU's foreign affairs representative, Javier Solana, who met with Schröder on Monday, will also attend the meeting. Europe's chief diplomat has also urged including the British. This, hopes Solana, would help heal the rift that has divided the EU.
London has shown interest in developing a common EU defense policy, and Greece, the Netherlands and the Finns are also interested provided it promotes European integration and America is not rejected.
OFFICIALS IN BERLIN ARE EVEN CONSIDERING THAT EACH STATE WOULD NOT NECESSARILY NEED ITS OWN ARMY, AIR FORCE AND NAVY.
The prime minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, believes that even Italy will join the club, and that its staunch support of the war has almost disappeared.
This Tuesday, the EU will begin its first military deployment, when 400 EU troops take over protective tasks from NATO in Macedonia. The ultimate goal, however, is a European army that can operate without NATO assistance.
The Germans believe that closer cooperation in the arms industry is needed to accomplish this objective. Unlike civil aviation, manufacturers of army and navy equipment still operate largely within national frameworks.
In spite of such savings potential, increases in military budgets seem unavoidable, and likely to occur within no less than three years, following the current round of reforms within the German military forces. Officials at the Federal Chancellery have recognized that it has become difficult to play poker on the international front without a military trump card.
Germany's annual military budget is 23.4 billion Euros, and is fixed until 2006. But even if Schröder were to add 1.5 billion Euros to the budget of his defense minister, Struck, and Struck's most recently cost-cutting program were to bring in the hoped-for 1.5 billion Euros, the additional funds would still fall short of what is needed for comprehensive modernization. It would be just enough to pay for fighter jets, ships and helicopters already on order, and to pay the salaries of military personnel.
ALTHOUGH AMERICA AND GREAT BRITAIN CAN WIN THE WAR ON THEIR OWN, THEY CANNOT WIN THE PEACE.
The call for more defense spending will meet with especially vehement opposition by the social politicians, which is why the Chancellor is depending on added support from Joschka Fischer, for example. Eliminating compulsory military service is a prime objective of the Green Party. In return, the Chancellor expects to receive support in his fight for increased military spending.
Fischer has already taken the first steps. Three weeks ago, he signaled the administration's change in course at an internal Green Party summit. Shortly thereafter, he boldly announced to the public: "To be taken seriously in this sector, we must strengthen our military force."
Party leader Angelika Beer publicly opposed Fischer for the first time on Thursday: "I believe that one cannot make substantial cuts in social security and the labor market, on the one hand, while at the same time saying that the military should receive more funding." A scheduled special Green Party summit, convened to discuss the administration's cost-cutting legislation, is now likely to include a debate on the new security policy.
The alliance with France is currently less of a concern. Berlin and Paris are united in their grudge against the United States.
President Chirac accuses the Americans of having made both a strategic and a political mistake: "They thought they would be greeted as liberators and that the regime would collapse like a house of cards. But they underestimated Iraqi patriotism. They would have been better off listening to us."
Nonetheless, the French president explained to his advisors in the Elysée Palace that France cannot descend into an I-told-you-so attitude. Instead, Chirac intends to make every effort to ensure that the "rash acts" that have been committed are corrected as quickly as possible. "The UN must reenter the game."
But a return to the international legality demanded by Chirac should not become a retroactive justification of the war. He has once again threatened the United States with a French veto: "France will accept no resolution that amounts to giving the Americans and the British, who are waging the war, administrative power over Iraq."
Chirac is determined, together with a coalition of those desiring peace, to break the hegemonic efforts of the US president. After all, says Chirac, while America and Great Britain could win the war on their own, they cannot win the peace. In Chirac's opinion, it would be impossible to establish an occupying regime in a conquered Iraq without a basis in international law. According to a diplomatic advisor to the president, "the era of colonialism has irrevocably passed" and, consequently, there can be only one conceivable solution for the post-war period: a mandate for UN peacekeepers.
With great satisfaction, the Germans and French have found that this time they have gained an unexpected ally: British prime minister Tony Blair, who insistently pushed for a UN solution during last week's meetings with Bush. According to French diplomats, Blair, unlike Bush, is a true moralist, one who places great faith in the law, justice and international consensus.
It was no coincidence that Foreign Minister de Villepin gave a policy speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London last Thursday, a speech he conceived as being in political and philosophical opposition to the US administration's efforts to go it alone. His core thesis: Only through moderation can power become acceptable.
Meanwhile, Schröder and Fischer view the German-French cooperation as the most successful outcome of their diplomatic efforts. Although there has been talk of a "big brother / little brother" relationship, this is a division of labor that seems to be quite acceptable to both sides.
The Chancellor, in particular, seems to have been given a boost by the most recent developments. According to Friday's ZDF "Politbarometer," three-quarters of the German population approve of his administration's Iraq policy, while even 57 percent of the CDU party faithful applaud Schröder's policies.
Schröder has long since taken a liking to foreign policy, whose occasional brilliance outshines the tiresome work of reforming Germany's social systems. In any event, the image experts have already established their strategy: Schröder, as a chancellor for peace who has faced difficult struggles to defend his cause, will become immune. In the future, others will be held responsible for miserable labor market data and budget deficits. The Chancellor guides the fate of the country, negotiates with the French and Russians, and tells the stubborn George W. Bush exactly what he thinks, something he will soon have the opportunity to do directly, either at the 300-year anniversary celebration in St. Petersburg in May or, if the world's most powerful man eludes him there, at the G-8 summit in June.
This self-confident approach to the United States should not weaken a sense of diplomatic finesse. The German-French friendship may follow its own rules. Berlin is certainly prepared to show some degree of humility. At a recent internal meeting, a Fischer confidante spoke of a "Tour de France approach": "Always make sure you lag just a little behind."
RALF BESTE, DIRK KOCH, ROMAIN LEICK, GABOR STEINGART, ALEXANDER SZANDAR