The Corner

National Security & Defense

Germany’s Foreign Minister: Playing Putin’s Tune

Well, this is just great.


In comments published Saturday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier sharply criticized recent NATO military exercises in eastern Europe, calling such drills counterproductive to security in the region. On June 7, NATO launched exercises codenamed “Anakonda-16,” which simulated a Russian attack on Poland. The two-week-long drills involve some 31,000 troops, including 14,000 from the United States, 12,000 from Poland and 1,000 from the UK, as well as dozens of fighter jets and ships, along with 3,000 vehicles.

Speaking to Germany’s “Bild am Sonntag” newspaper, Steinmeier (SPD) said more dialogue and cooperation with Russia are needed, not what he deemed military posturing.

“What we shouldn’t do now is inflame the situation further through saber-rattling and war cries,” Steinmeier said in comments made available ahead of publication on Sunday. “Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security, is mistaken.

Steinmeier is a member of the Social Democratic Party, the left-hand side of the “indispensable” Angela Merkel’s governing coalition.

To put Anakonda in some context, contrast, Russia’s Zapad-13 (“West-13”) exercise from three years back.

Jamestown (my emphasis added):

[T]he Zapad 2013 exercises amounted to a comprehensive review of the command and control (C2) systems, the ability of the armed forces to complete combined forces operations (i.e. with the Belarusian military, including its Spetsnaz), as well as a thorough testing of the joint operations of Russia’s armed forces where land, sea and air forces operated together simultaneously in a single operation. As a result, Russia could not have mobilized, transported, and deployed just 10,000 men, as some sources claimed. Rather the figure, according to unofficial Western estimates by individuals speaking off the record must have been closer to 70,000….

[T]he maneuvers and drills conducted during Zapad 2013 reflected virtually the entire range of conceivable military operations except for nuclear strikes, which Russia had practiced in the Zapad 2009 and Vostok (“East”) 2010 exercises. The absence of a nuclear element in Zapad 2013 may reflect concern over the unfavorable publicity generated by the reports of a simulated nuclear strike on Warsaw in Zapad 2009…

At the conventional level, Zapad 2013 featured search and rescue, amphibious landing and anti-landing operations, air and ground strikes on enemy targets, anti-submarine warfare, missile strikes with long-range precision strike assets, airborne and air assault operations, and so on across the entire expanse from the Arctic to Voronezh. According to reports, the training scenario featured an attack and/or landing by “Baltic terrorists” targeting Belarus in which these forces held out despite numerous assaults by the Russo-Belarusian defenders. The enemy forces then fled into cities, leading to urban operations to dislodge them—hence the integration of anti-terrorist and conventional operations. These “terrorists” conducted an amphibious landing on the Baltic Sea coast, employed Mi-24 helicopters, SU-25 and Su-30 strike aircraft, as well as conducted ship-to-shore fire from naval vessels of the Baltic Fleet. Thus, these “terrorists” appear to have been a deliberately misnamed surrogate for NATO.

Probably so: At the time, the Latvian Air force consisted of a handful of helicopters, and Lithuania had no tanks.

Since then the Russians have continued to play games in the Baltics, including frequent incursions into Baltic airspace, harassment outside it,  and the continuation of a major build-up in the Kaliningrad exclave (a slice of old East Prussia annexed by the Soviets at the end of the Second World War).

The NATO response—the planned ‘permanent’ deployment of a total of four battalions (around four thousand troops) in Poland and the Baltics—is the thinnest of trip wires.  

As for Germany, Merkel’s moochers spend roughly 1.2 percent of GDP on defense, far short of the country’s minimum NATO target.  Merkel herself is an advocate of, over time, an EU army.  I’ll leave you to think about what that might mean for the Atlantic Alliance, and, for that matter, NATO.

And while you are thinking, here’s what Lord Guthrie thinks. 

Lord Guthrie?  The Daily Telegraph describes him as  “the last Chief of the [British]  Defence Staff (CDS) to have run [the UK’s] armed forces in a  period of military success… and the last general to have been made a Field Marshal.” In February, he signed a letter in favor of Britain’s continued membership of the EU.

But now, as he told The Daily Telegraph, he has changed his mind. The prospect of an expanded military role for the EU appears to be the reason why (my emphasis added):

As CDS, [Guthrie] also attended meetings in Brussels which sought to give an EU dimension to the new defence situation…‘It was pretty thin stuff, though the Germans and President Mitterrand of France were very keen.’ Lord Guthrie found that the European Army was ‘more than a gleam in the eye’ of such people. Nowadays, the Commission and the European Parliament use the phrase ‘politico-military structures in Brussels’, which shows the way they are thinking.

‘I felt it was so unwise, because it was NATO that had brought about the peace. Many European politicians like to say that it was the EU which made everything peaceful. It was not: it was the leadership of the Americans.’…

’They want to set up a European Army HQ. That would cause an awful lot of duplication and waste huge sums of money… It would mean, even more than today, that we would not be spending money on the people who make the difference.’…

‘To get 28 people sitting round a table [the EU has 28 member-states] being decisive is very, very difficult. If you have a European Army, you will find that lots of those taking part will see it as a way of getting a seat at the top table as cheaply as they possibly can.  Then they can actually do less, and the equipment programmes and the size of the forces suffer. When it comes to leading, you want a very clear chain of command, capable of making quick decisions.’

Explain to me again why the further integration of the EU is in Europe’s or, for that matter, America’s interest


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