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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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    Baerbock’s big day

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    A few more minutes of patience and Annalena Baerbock will explain very clearly what “integrated security” is. The term is in the title of a document that has never existed in Germany before. In the morning, the federal cabinet decided on a national security strategy for the first time in the history of the Federal Republic. The capital’s press is now queuing up to find out more. Before that, however, she had to undergo an unusually meticulous check for the customs in the building of the federal press conference, in which the police shepherd Orion, who specializes in explosives, was also involved. When not only the foreign minister, but also the chancellor, the finance minister, the defense minister and the interior minister appear together before the press, the security problem is not just integrated, but also quite traditional.

    Which raises the question of why Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) have to appear at all in the entourage of three cabinet colleagues in order to present a 76-page document including many colorful pictures. At least according to the records going back to 1978, this has not happened in the federal press conference.

    Scholz also admits that this is “rather unusual”. But the Federal Cabinet had just “made an unusual and important decision”. Baerbock also speaks of a “special day”. At least Finance Minister and FDP leader Christian Lindner sees himself under a certain pressure to explain. “Some of you may be surprised that I’m sitting here at the front,” he admits, which is certainly not due to the fact that the FDP sees “an element of uncertainty in the coalition”.

    Russia is the greatest threat in the foreseeable future, it says

    First of all, it is certain that one day after a heating compromise, Lindner is in the best of moods, just like the FDP likes to do, which is why he can now beamingly reveal that integrated security also has something to do with financial stability. And anyway: Writing down a strategy is “meritorious and important”, but it will be decisive “to live it, to implement it”. Of course, this must be “deposited with resources”. So we will have to talk about money.

    Actually, however, this is the Foreign Minister’s big day, which can be seen in the strategy from the fact that her foreword is twice as long as that of the Chancellor. She also speaks a lot during the press conference – and the chancellor, as usual, very quietly. Scholz thanks the Foreign Minister and her team for their “tireless commitment” and “great commitment”. Forget the sometimes tough negotiations, today the federal government presents itself as completely integrated.

    The drafting of the national security strategy had already been agreed in the traffic light coalition agreement, but it was then completely shaped by the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. “Today’s Russia is the greatest threat to peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic region for the foreseeable future,” the paper says. Which then leads to the clear statement: “The core mission of the Bundeswehr is national and alliance defense, all tasks are subordinate to this mission. The Federal Government will provide the necessary military capabilities and quickly close capability gaps.”

    Which would put the Treasury Secretary back in the game. The strategy contains a commitment to NATO’s goal of spending two percent of economic power on defense, albeit “on a multi-year average” and initially including the 100 billion special fund for the German armed forces.

    What exactly is the two percent target?

    In this way, Lindner announces, the two percent target should be reached as early as next year. He rejects criticism that this is not possible with the actual defense budget. “Now, to reflect two percent of our annual economic output from the federal budget on an ad hoc basis, that would only be possible through massive interventions in statutory services and the cancellation of other necessary investments or massive tax increases, which would have a significant impact on economic development,” he says.

    The federal government does not think much of calls for even more ambitious financial targets to be set at the NATO summit in Vilnius. “Even those who want to reach for higher fruits should have both feet firmly on the ground,” said Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD). It is not the case that many other NATO partners are now exceeding the two percent target. Already two percent are “ambitious”.

    Finance Minister Lindner admits, however, that the “proportions of the federal budget” will have to change in the coming years. The time of the peace dividend is over, now it is “the time of freedom and peace investments”. In the strategy, this translates into the three big buzzwords of defensiveness, resilience and sustainability. “Security in the 21st century is about more than the military and diplomacy,” emphasizes Foreign Minister Baerbock. It begins “with each of us in the morning when we shower with clean water, with warm water”.

    “China is a partner, competitor and systemic rival”

    In order to explain the importance of integrated security, she then comes back to the sale of the largest German gas storage facility in Rehden in 2015 to Gazprom. At that time, the SPD Minister for Economic Affairs, Sigmar Gabriel, was largely responsible. Scholz doesn’t change a face. It shouldn’t just be a special day, but a particularly harmonious one.

    This also remains the case when it comes to China. “China is a partner, competitor and systemic rival. We see that the elements of rivalry and competition have increased in recent years,” the strategy reads. China is trying in various ways to “reshape the existing rule-based international order, is increasingly aggressively claiming regional supremacy and repeatedly acts in contradiction to our interests and values”.

    At the same time, it remains “a partner without whom many global challenges and crises cannot be solved”. The chancellor calls this “balance” and denies any differences of opinion at the traffic light. These are all “our common sentences”. The world is flat, seconded Baerbock, “not black and white”. Even the chancellor could not have said it better.

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