Ukrainian opposition leaders meeting John Kerry at the Munich Security Conference 2014 | Credit: Marc Müller, MSC2014 - Photo: 2014

A New German Fiction

By Julio Godoy* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

BERLIN (IDN) – A rather strange debate is taking place in Germany for several months. Most strange, because it refers to a fiction, to a bizarre aspiration – of German troops waging war in different parts of the world, contrary to the role stipulated by the German constitution for the country’s army – an aspiration that hardly fits into the present reality or in the probable future.

This delusion, which began several years ago, and was abandoned for all practical purposes, reached climax again last January, at the Munich Security Conference during which, in an obviously concerted action, two German ministers and the country’s federal president argued that Germany, as the foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier put it, “must be ready for earlier, more decisive and more substantive engagement in the foreign and security policy sphere.”

Mind the word “security”. The federal president Joachim Gauck said practically the same: Germany “could – building on its experience in safeguarding human rights and the rule of law – take more resolute steps to preserve and help shape the order based on the European Union, (the military North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) NATO and the United Nations,” Gauck declared. He added: “At the same time, Germany must also be ready to do more to guarantee the security that others have provided it with for decades.” Although the italics are mine, it might well be that Gauck would agree with my emphasis.

In plain language: Germany must be ready to wage war all over the world in the name of human rights, peace, and … security.

Apart from the fact that both Steinmeier’s as well as Gauck’s speeches are plagued by what can be called German newspeak on its actual role in international affairs, reality, this cruel tamer of wannabes and delusionists, showed quite rapidly what the “world” thinks of Germany “taking responsibility” for other people’s security.

Ukrainian crisis

The Ukrainian crisis provided several examples of that.

After long negotiations, on February 20, Steinmeier and two other European foreign ministers announced in Kiev that they had been able to reach an agreement with the Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych and the Maidan square opposition to put an end to the crisis. The agreement set out plans to hold early presidential elections, form a national unity government and revert to the 2004 constitution. All sides signed the agreement.

Steinmeier greeted the contract as a breakthrough. “This agreement is not the end of the process. It’s the beginning of the process,” Steinmeier said after the signing. German journalists were as overwhelmed and enthused by the agreement as the foreign minister. The conservative newspaper Berliner Morgenpost even called the negotiations and the agreement “a diplomatic moment of glory” for the German foreign minister.

But a couple of hours later, the opposition had overthrown Yanukovych. The ousted president was most likely aware that he had been left alone by his former partisans, and having in mind what happened to the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu 25 years before, he fled the country.

In other words: the Maidan opposition thought that the agreement Steinmeier had so long negotiated for, wasn’t either a beginning nor an end, even not worth the paper it was written on. All of a sudden, the fictional moment of glory had become a sound slap in the face of the European diplomats involved, in particular Steinmeier’s, all the more embarrassing for it was perpetrated before the world public.

The Ukrainian crisis provided yet another occasion to humiliate the European diplomacy in general and the German in particular: In her famous expletive (“fuck the EU”) earlier in February 2014, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland surely described quite precisely what the government in Washington thinks of the European and German intervention in the Ukrainian crisis.

The tapes of Nuland’s infamous telephone conversation revealed the U.S. plans to create an interim government in Kiev, formed by the most radical anti-Russian politicians in Ukraine, including neo Fascists, particularly “Yats”, as Nuland called Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a financial technocrat who has been described “as the type of guy who can hobnob with the European elite… unelected and willing to do the International Monetary Fund’s bidding.”

“We want Yats in there,” Nuland said in the taped conversation, not even taking the effort to correctly pronounce her pawn’s name. If Germany and the EU thought otherwise, well then, that was their problem.

Sure enough, Yats was in the new government. Sure enough, the EU immediately recognised the interim government. Sure enough, this government did not set out plans to force the oligarchs to pay any new taxes to finance the bankrupt Ukrainian state, but instead asked the EU, that is, Germany, to fuel some billions to Kiev. Among other things, to pay the gas bill to the most hated Russian provider.

By the way: the German government is clearly aware of the limits of its actions, or of the military risks it is willing to take. After Russia recuperated Crimea, some opportunist members of the German Green party suggested that the Ukraine overnight become member of the NATO. That membership would mean that in case of a new Russian aggression against Ukraine, the NATO would have to intervene – it would be the so called casus foederis. Article 5 of the NATO Treaty rules this case, in the event of a foreign attack against a member nation.

Guess who immediately argued that Ukraine would never be accepted as member of the NATO? Precisely: German government officials, including foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier, and, most telling, leading military officers.

Conspicuous impotence,

You can go on listing examples of the conspicuous impotence, downright absence, or dubious actions Germany and Europe have shown to “guarantee international security”, from Syria to Nigeria, from Thailand to Afghanistan, from Iraq to Somalia.

On the other hand, given the miserable record of Western interventions in the world at large, one cannot but wonder why its leaders still believe they can be part of the solution, and don’t see that most of the time, as long as they keep trapped in their neo-colonial policies, they are part of the problem.

Take South Sudan: There is evidence that in 2009 a private German shipping company helped Western secret services to deliver Russian weapons to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, the guerrilla group then fighting against the regime of Omar al-Bashir.

No doubt, Al-Bashir is a thug. But to support brutes only because they are the enemies of your enemies is not a responsible policy. Sooner than later the brutes you are arming now will turn the weapons you delivered to them against you. Remember Saddam Hussein: Throughout the 1980s he was the Western surrogate soldier against Iran. Throughout the 1990s, he became the U.S. most preferred enemy, until his iniquitous execution in 2006.

Even though South Sudan gained independency in 2011, obviously with the little help of Western powers, it has remained the battle field of ruthless warriors, the very same thugs Germany and its allies armed and financed over the years, and who don’t show any mercy for their own people, as long as their personal power aspirations are at stake. Now, nobody, not even the usual celebrities, seems to care about what is happening there.

Similarly, Germany has been since many years providing weapons to countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, financiers and suppliers of terrorist groups or brutal regimes all over the Arab world, most notably in Syria and in Iraq. The German government defends such weapons exports pretending, against all evidence, that the Sunni powers in the Arabian Peninsula constitute “an anchor of stability” in the Middle East.

There is judicial evidence also that the German military industry delivered weapons to Colombia, the most violent country in Latin America, a nation bleeding by a civil war since more than 50 years.

Or take Afghanistan, where Germany has since 2003 stationed some 3,300 soldiers: Despite the German participation in the International Security Assistance Force, the Central Asian country is as far from being a stable democracy as ever before. Germany and the NATO countries have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars in there, taken the lives of thousands of Afghan civilians, and colluded with scandalous electoral frauds and corruption committed by their own closest local partners in exchange of a vague promise of a better future, sometime.

The Afghan case shows how superfluous the German debate on the potential role of the country in international security is: Germany is already doing what Gauck and Steinmeier demand for the future, as if it were a chimera.

Presently, Germany participates in military operations in Sudan, Senegal, Mal, Somalia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, among other countries, about which the Bundeswehr (German federal army) website does not make any secret.

Germany also participated in the war against Serbia in the late 1990s, and intervened in the bombardment of Belgrade.

All these operations have taken place despite the fact that the German constitution of 1949, after the moral disaster of Nazi era, originally restrained the national army, the Bundeswehr, exclusively to defence operations. According to Art. 87a of the German constitution, the Bundeswehr can only act to protect the national borders in case of a military foreign aggression. Until 1990, its only active role was logistical operations against natural disasters.

But, in 1994, in the maelstrom caused by the Yugoslavian secession wars, a ruling of the Constitutional court gave a broader definition to the “defence” of Germany, beyond the protection of the country’s borders and reacting to a military aggression. The court ruled that Germany’s “defence” included prevention or reaction to international conflicts and crisis. Under this amplified conception of “defence”, Germany during the past 15 years was allowed to send soldiers to Afghanistan, Kosovo, the Indian Ocean, and elsewhere.

Ill-managed Bundeswehr reform

These operations and an ill-managed reform of the Bundeswehr have led to an overreach – the German army has reached the limit of its human and material resources, and it is unlikely that a remedy will be found in the foreseeable future.

Such examples and policies show that the debate Steinmeier and Gauck pretend to open is an anachronism, for it was already carried out 20 years ago. The consequence is that Germany has been sending soldiers to many places in the world, without decisively improving international security.

Curiously, Germany has been under attack since several years – by the U.S., which has been spying on practically all electronic communications of practically all German citizens, from Chancellor Angela Merkel down to software developers. As a conservative Bavarian politician correctly said earlier this July, the U.S. government and its notorious National Security Agency behave in Germany as an electronic occupation force.

Despite this abusive policy, nobody in Berlin has considered defending its virtual borders in a forceful way.

Similarly, it is completely out of the question that Germany will intervene in any meaningful manner in the most pressing present conflicts across the world, be it in Syria, in Iraq, in Pakistan, or in Ukraine. Or can anyone in Berlin consider sending soldiers to the West Bank to put an end to the continuous Israeli occupation of Palestine, or to Nigeria to rescue the girls kidnapped by Muslims fanatics?

So what is left beyond Steinmeier’s and Gauck’s delusion? Germany could indeed make a substantial contribution to international security and stability: It could establish a real control upon its military exports; it could launch a substantial campaign for nuclear disarmament, starting with its own territory; it could give shelter to a significant number of war refugees from Syria and Iraq; it could improve its development and cooperation policies and revise its aggressive trade policies towards the countries of the South, and its counterproductive austerity policies towards its European partners.

That would be a major contribution to peace, security, and stability, a set of policies that would neither need soldiers nor weapons.

*Julio Godoy is an investigative journalist and IDN Global Editor. He has won international recognition for his work, including the Hellman-Hammett human rights award, the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Investigative Reporting Online by the U.S. Society of Professional Journalists, and the Online Journalism Award for Enterprise Journalism by the Online News Association and the U.S.C. Annenberg School for Communication, as co-author of the investigative reports “Making a Killing: The Business of War” and “The Water Barons: The Privatisation of Water Services”. [IDN-InDepthNews – July 9, 2014]

Top Picture: Ukrainian opposition leaders meeting John Kerry at the Munich Security Conference 2014 | Credit: Marc Müller, MSC2014

Bottom Picture: Julio Godoy – Credit: ICIJ

The writer’s other IDN articles:

2014 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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