German Defense Minister Answers Questions about Conscription and Multinational Units

German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg

From Spiegel interview with German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg: 

Guttenberg: In 10 years we will have caught up on the backlog of necessary reforms. The army will be smaller and trained for the challenges of asymmetrical threats. It cannot be, with 252,000 soldiers, that we have already reached the limits of our abilities when only 8,000 soldiers are deployed at the same time. In 10 years we will be more professional, faster and more flexible. We will have the potential to deploy our soldiers around the world and still not neglect our own defense.

SPIEGEL: In 10 years, what portion of the military’s activities will consist of national defense?

Guttenberg: Less. The necessity of defending our borders has already shrunk to a minimum. The Bundeswehr’s structures, though, still reflect to an extent the spirit of the Cold War. There have been attempts to change this, calling the process "transformation," but so far this has brought too little progress. I’ve created a structural commission for this reason. That seems to me the more fitting word — we need to change structures as well. …

SPIEGEL: One possibility for cutting costs would be a rational division of labor in NATO and the European Union. Doesn’t it seem crazy that in a united Europe, each country still maintains an entire army?

Guttenberg: You are correct, such a division of labor is urgently needed, but in some places, it exists already. There is a German-Dutch corps and a German-French brigade, as well as joint defense projects. But we certainly have not yet found the splendidly successful model that I would like to see. In order to do so, we all need to overcome our national selfishness.

SPIEGEL: If there’s one area that exhibits no concept of Europe as a whole, it’s defense policy. Could you imagine one day having Dutch pilots monitor German airspace?

Guttenberg: It will be a laborious process, but I don’t see the notion as absurd. There is no reason for each individual country in the EU to keep hold of every single task.  (photo: Getty)

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