Diplomacy, crisis prevention, and the peaceful settlement of conflicts are the primary tools of German foreign policy: The posting of civil servants, judges, public prosecutors, police officers, development workers and other civilians is just as much part and parcel of a comprehensive security policy as the Bundeswehr, the German army, participating in multinational peace missions. The determining feature of German foreign policy, close multilateral involvement, also applies, indeed particularly so for the use of military means. In principle, the Bundeswehr is deployed within the framework of collective security or defence systems. As such it is bound to the resolutions passed by the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), and NATO. Wherever possible, Bundeswehr missions abroad are always accompanied by a civilian component, such as political, development, and socio-economic measures. Missions involving armed forces are subject to parliamentary mandate and control. They need the express approval of a majority of the members of the German parliament, the Bundestag, and are in each case only for the duration of one year. For this reason, the Bundeswehr is also referred to as a parliamentary army.
Germany has been politically and militarily integrated in NATO since the Bundeswehr was first founded in 1955. Being firmly anchored in the North Atlantic defence alliance is part of German foreign policy’s DNA. Germany is or was one of the biggest providers of troops for the NATO-led missions in Kosovo (KFOR) and Afghanistan (ISAF, Resolute Support). Since 1990 the Bundeswehr has been involved in 35 missions abroad, of which 19 were concluded by 2015.
Reliable member of the world organisation
In the wake of the Ukraine crisis, Germany once again demonstrated its commitment to NATO defence. In 2015 the Bundeswehr, together with the Netherlands and Norway, helped set up the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), which as part of collective defence and crisis management is intended to improve the Alliance’s ability to respond swiftly. Since being admitted to the UN in 1973, the Federal Republic of Germany has been a committed, reliable, and valued member of the world organisation. For this reason, in 2018 Germany intends to stand as a candidate for one of the six non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council for the 2019-2020 term. Germany contributes around 190 million dollars annually to the regular UN budget, and some 640 million dollars to the separate budget for UN peace missions. In each case the figure is 7.1 percent of the total UN budget, making Germany the third biggest contributor in 2015. Around 260 German soldiers and police officers participated in UN-led missions in 2014, among others in Lebanon, Western Sahara, Mali, South Sudan, Sudan, and Liberia. The UN is present in Germany too, in particular on the UN Campus in Bonn, home to 19 of the 28 UN agencies in Germany as a whole, among them the UN Climate Secretariat (UNFCCC).
In order to better help international organisations on peace-keeping missions, Germany is going to put the training and deployment of civilian crisis response workers on an even more professional footing. Established in 2002, the Centre for International Peace Operations has a pool of 1,500 experts on call, and will be strengthened still further. It selects civilian crisis managers, prepares them on training courses for missions as observers and mediators in crisis areas and post-conflict countries, and evaluates their experiences. In cooperation with the Federal Foreign Office, by 2015 the Centre for International Peace Operations had already posted 3,000 short and long-term volunteers on election observation missions, and conducted projects in 65 countries.
The OSCE as the main forum for peace and security in Europe
Germany supports the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), another mainstay of peace and security in Europe. The organisation originated in the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) and adopted its present name in 1995. The core document of the OSCE is the Helsinki Final Act, which was signed in 1975, and in which, among other things, the inviolability of frontiers and the peaceful settlement of disputes were agreed as basic principles of the European security order.
Today the organisation has 57 participating states from Europe, North America and Central Asia making it the largest regional organisation for collective security worldwide. The importance of the OSCE as a central forum for dialogue and confidence building once again became clear during the Ukraine crisis. The OSCE supports the efforts for a peaceful settlement of the Ukraine conflict, among other things by conducting political negotiations in the Trilateral Contact Group.
Furthermore, the OSCE has deployed several hundred civilian observers to Ukraine to monitor the ceasefire set out in the Minsk agreements signed in September 2014 and February 2015, and to verify the withdrawal of troops and weapons, for example in the area of conflict in eastern Ukraine. For the purpose of preventing conflicts and promoting democratisation, the OSCE maintains permanent missions in several countries and, with the support of Germany, regularly sends election observers to its participating states.
Commitment to disarmament and arms control
Disarmament, arms control, and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons have long since had a high priority in German foreign policy. Germany is committed to the goal of a world free of all nuclear weapons and to this end pursues a pragmatic approach. Together with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Germany played a constructive role in the E3+3 negotiations leading to the Vienna agreement with Iran on the Iranian nuclear programme. Germany continues to support the universality and enforcement of relevant international treaties and agreements. In 2014 and 2015 it was closely involved in the destroying or rendering harmless various chemical weapons removed from Syria. Between 2013 and 2016 Germany will have conducted projects worth approximately 24 million euros in more than 20 partner countries aimed at improving security against biological weaponry of any kind. Furthermore, Germany has contributed around 13.2 million euros to projects for clearing mines and caring for mine victims, making it one of the biggest donors in this area. The destruction of superfluous weapons and munition and the safe storage of endangered stocks are focal points of German policy. Conventional arms control, as well as confidence and security-building measures are of enormous importance in the OSCE area. Germany is in favour of the relevant mechanisms being modernised and adapted to meet current challenges.