Hanns Seidel Stiftung

An American View on Germany's National Security Strategy

Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Europe and Eurasia
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stands in front of a Puma infantry fighting vehicle of the Bundeswehr while visiting the Bundeswehr army training center in Ostenholz on October 17, 2022, near Hodenhagen, Germany. (David Hecker via Getty Images)

Germany’s national security strategy (NSS), the first in the country’s history, holds few surprises. As a carefully negotiated compromise between the three-party coalition government in Berlin, it reflects Germany’s existing strategic culture more than it charts out a new one.

Even a cursory glance at the document reveals the imprint of each of the parties. It toggles between such calling cards as Green party feminism, libertarian fiscal discipline, and Social Democratic hopes for rapprochement with China.

At other times, it employs ambivalent language that renders parts of the document meaningless. The government will continue “to adhere to its restrictive baseline policy” on arms exports, for example, yet promises at the same time to weigh “alliance and security interests, the geostrategic situation and the needs of enhanced European arms cooperation.”

Yet it is not a modest document. The NSS includes grand calls to protect the “free democratic order,” “free trade routes,” and the “rules-based international order with a strong United Nations at its heart” but it does not explain how Berlin might secure those goals. At base, therefore, it reads more like an aspirational treatise than a security strategy.

Concretely, the NSS does make clear that the country has shed its romantic attachment to Russia. On military spending, it promises Germany will “allocate two percent of our GDP, as an average over a multi-year period, to reach NATO capability goals.” The strategy is justly proud of the country’s rapid transition away from Russian fossil fuels, and the key concept at the center of the document – Integrated Security – is defined as “consistently taking account of security issues” in areas like supply chains. In other words, Germany is waking up to its economic dependency on China as a national security vulnerability.

Interestingly, however, the NSS states mater-of-factly that the world is now multipolar. It does not grapple with the possibility that we are instead entering an era of Sino-American bipolarity, with third states forced to coalesce around each of the poles. Instead, it clings to the idea of Beijing as an indispensable partner on global challenges. On that count, Berlin is likely to end up sorely disappointed

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