Europe Politics

German military forces must take a lead role in the world's security, defense minister says

Key Points
  • Germany's defense minister wants the country to take a greater lead in global military activity.
  • The country has restricted its military role under a German flag since the second world war.
  • The United States has previously argued that Germany should spend more on defense.
Tobias Schwarz | AFP | Getty Images

A candidate to be Germany's next leader has again called for the country to play a more active military role on the world stage.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, colloquially known as AKK, currently acts as Germany's defense minister and has previously been considered as Chancellor Angela Merkel's favored prospect to be the country's next leader.

In a translation provided by media outlet, Kramp-Karrenbauer is reportedly set to say Thursday that German armed forces should take a greater lead in armed missions around the world.

"A country of our size, with our economic and technological power, our geostrategic position and global interests, cannot just stand on the sidelines and watch," she will say at the Bundeswehr University in Munich, before adding: "Germany must participate in international debates and drive them forward."

Pre-empting the speech in earlier comments published by the Suddeutsche Zeitung media outlet, the German defense minister added that the country must "openly deal with the fact that we, like every other country in the world, have our own strategic interests."

Pompeo in Germany

The statement appeared to coincide intentionally with the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who arrived in Germany this week to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Pompeo, who patrolled the Berlin Wall as a U.S. soldier in the 1980s, is likely to repeat a message to senior lawmakers in Berlin that the U.S. wants Germany to pay more for its own defense.

Europe's largest economy has raised its defense budget in recent years but is still short of a NATO target that asks member nations to commit 2% of their annual GDP (gross domestic product). Germany has said it will reach the target within 5 years.

In March, German budget figures put 2020 defense spending at €45 billion, or 1.37% of GDP.

Germany has been careful to restrict its military activities under its own banner since the end of the second world war. The country has preferred to operate as minor partners within alliances or under the banner of NATO forces.

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Domestic opposition

In October, Kramp-Karrenbauer suggested a greater leadership role for Germany when she argued that an internationally policed corridor could be set up in northern Syria with cooperation from European partners

The United Nations refugee agency has estimated that thousands of families in northern Syria are at risk after the U.S. government announced its withdrawal from the region.

Kramp-Karrenbauer leads the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in Germany as part of a fragile ruling coalition with the center-left Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).

The SPD's deputy chief, Ralf Stegner, said German troops would not take part in a policing operation because his party would not allow it.

"That means militarization of German foreign policy, and the SPD cannot and will not participate in such a thing."