Germany to launch new military strategy 'without taboos'

Defense Minister says German armed forces will act under new strategy from 2016, marking a formal end to its post-WWII pacifist policy

Defense Minister says German armed forces will act under new strategy from 2016, marking a formal end to its post-WWII pacifist policy

BERLIN – Germany's armed forces will come under a new security and defense strategy from 2016, the German government has announced.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced in Berlin on Tuesday that Germany, which has been traditionally hesitant in taking part in international military operations mainly because of its Nazi past, would act "without any taboos".

Speaking at the start of a meeting of experts, civil and military officials and politicians on the construction of a new defense strategy for Germany, der Leyen said: “Today, we are beginning our work on a new White Paper on the security policy and the future of our armed forces, the Bundeswehr."

She said the White Paper would form the basic strategic document of the German military.

Germany has long opposed providing weapons to parties in conflict zones, but decided last year to send arms and ammunition to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in their fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

- 'Alarming developments'

In another milestone decision last month, the German parliament approved deploying up to 100 soldiers in northern Iraq to train Peshmerga forces, clearing the way for the first German military deployment abroad without any NATO or UN Security Council mandate.

Public opinion in the country has been largely against Germany taking any military role in international conflicts but, in recent months, German government officials have been advocating a more aggressive foreign policy, supported by military measures, stressing Germany's responsibility for international "peace and stability".

Von der Leyen emphasized that "alarming developments" relating to "international terrorism" along with the rise of the self-proclaimed ISIL and the Ukrainian crisis had shown the need for a change in Germany’s existing White Paper, which dates back to 2006.

She promised an "inclusive and transparent process" in defining a new security and defense strategy for the armed forces and said consultations would be carried out with security experts, politicians, defense industry representatives, government officials and military personnel, before the German cabinet finalized the strategy in the summer of 2016.

- 'Hybrid threat'

Von der Leyen said: "The combination of a brutal, pseudo-religious ideology with the latest modern communications constitutes a new hybrid threat," referring to ISIL’s use of the Internet and social media.

She said the conflict in eastern Ukraine had also shown it was difficult to respond with conventional tools to modern warfare.

"This orchestration of the various elements of hybrid warfare would change the security architecture of our continent fundamentally," she said.

The announcement came after German President Joachim Gauck, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and der Leyen repeatedly pushed for a more aggressive foreign policy for Germany.

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