Security Policy: Voices from the German Parliament

Written by: Markus Levy; photos by: Katharina Roggmann / Torsten Kraatz / Laura Clayborn

Hamburg, 9 April 2018

Roderich Kiesewetter signing the visitors' book of the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College

Roderich Kiesewetter signing the visitors' book of the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College

Johannes Kahrs elaborating on the parliamentary perspective on the field of armaments policy

Johannes Kahrs elaborating on the parliamentary perspective on the field of armaments policy

Rear Admiral Carsten Stawitzki welcoming the guest speakers

Rear Admiral Carsten Stawitzki welcoming the guest speakers

 Dietmar Nietan talking about German-Polish cooperation

  Dietmar Nietan talking about German-Polish cooperation

NGASOC students following the presentations held by the members of the German parliament with great interest

NGASOC students following the presentations held by the members of the German parliament with great interest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the past months, the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College (BwCSC) in Hamburg has often had the pleasure of welcoming prominent figures from the fields of politics, science and the military to participate in the conference series "Security Policy and Strategy", which forms part of the 2017 National General/Admiral Staff Officer Course (NGASOC). The guest speakers gave presentations on their fields of activity to the future military leaders and addressed the often demanding questions raised by the students. For the thematic block "Germany's Foreign and Security Policy", the members of the German Bundestag Mr. Dietmar Nietan (Social Democratic Party of Germany, SPD) and Mr. Roderich Kiesewetter (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) came to Hamburg for the purpose of giving a presentation on the subject area and engaging in lively discussions with the officers studying on the NGASOC. Mr. Johannes Kahrs (SPD), member of the German Bundestag and an expert in armaments policy, completed the group of guest lecturers.

Personal experience broadens horizons

Most members of Parliament can draw on years of experience in the political circles in Berlin, and many are active as volunteers in foundations and associations in the civil society. They believe that gaining first-hand impressions of matters on site is both the basis for developing a determined political posture and the reality-based starting point of any form of political action. As a result, it was the politicians' personal experiences that gave weight to their presentations and resulted in fascinating discussions.

German-Polish cooperation

As a renowned expert on both European policy and Poland, Dietmar Nietan focused on the current challenges arising from the national conservative political approach of the present Polish government. Mr. Nietan, who is also chairman of the board of management of the Deutsch-Polnische Gesellschaft Bundesverband e.V. (Federal Association of German-Polish Societies), began his presentation by elaborating on the historical and geostrategic context that is essential to understand in order to comprehend the identity and international political actions of modern Poland.

A basis for sovereignty

According to Mr. Nietan, Poland's view of the United States as their main ally and sole guarantor of security ahead of their European partners as well as the country's tangible skepticism regarding any advancement of European integration can be traced back to the aforementioned context. This, he argued, is the reason for "the great significance of the idea of sovereignty as a key element in the political agenda of the Law and Justice Party—an element, which is increasingly being emphasized in domestic politics, too." In spite of these developments, he clearly opposed all tendencies to abandon even the more difficult talks with the country's leadership. The developments in Poland should be accompanied by "smart" politics on different working levels "in order to be able to constructively shape the relationship between Germany and its great neighbor to the east even under changed framework conditions."

Foreign and security policy

On the next day, the German MP Mr. Roderich Kiesewetter, a retired Colonel (GS) and winner of the General Heusinger Prize, evaluated the difficult framework conditions of German foreign and security policy both at present and in the future. He provided deep insight into the complex mechanisms of consensus building between the ruling coalition parties in parliament. Kiesewetter also pointed out that these increasingly complex parameters have a profound impact on parliamentary involvement in German foreign relations. In this context, he focused on Germany's role as a reliable partner in the vital alliances it is a member of. From his point of view, the coalition agreement sets the right priorities and reflects the learning process that has been going on in Germany's political landscape.

Financial resources for effective armed forces

Nonetheless, struggling to agree on sustainable, moderately increasing funding for the German armed forces or on a targeted security debate is not the only current political challenge: Germany must consistently strengthen its ability to honor alliance obligations and confidently distinguish itself as a reliable partner, Mr. Kiesewetter stated. This was one of many aspects taken up by the students in the lively debate that followed. When asked what "homework" Germany's politicians will be dealing with next, Mr. Kiesewetter pointed out that the widely communicated comprehensive approach in matters of security policy should already be a part of parliamentary work. Solutions should be sought by means of cross-departmental cooperation, for example within the framework of an ongoing broad strategy debate.

Click here to get to the 2nd part of the article.