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Germany’s National-Security Strategy Misses the Target

Amid the ongoing war in Ukraine and China’s growing assertiveness, Germany unveiled its first national-security strategy in 70 years. While an important step forward, the lack of concrete policy proposals and uncertainty surrounding institutional mechanisms and necessary financial resources risk relegating it to the archive.

BERLIN – After a significant delay, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently unveiled the country’s first national-security strategy. The long-anticipated plan, introduced nearly a year and a half after Scholz stood before the Bundestag and proclaimed that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had triggered an “epochal change” (Zeitenwende), is intended to help Germany navigate a changed and uncertain geopolitical landscape. But while the 74-page document – jointly released by the foreign affairs, defense, finance, and interior ministries, as well as the chancellery – clearly lays out the geopolitical and economic challenges facing the country, the strategy, in its current form, is too vague to be an effective guide.

Although Germany has so far managed without a national-security strategy, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine – together with the country’s dangerous dependence on Russian natural gas – drove home the need for comprehensive thinking. For decades, Germany relied on the United States and NATO for protection, a seemingly never-ending peace dividend that enabled the country to champion military restraint while maintaining the illusion that the world was more peaceful and secure than it was.

This illusion was shattered after Russia attacked Ukraine, and China, eager to exploit any perceived Western vulnerability, adopted a more assertive foreign policy. But although the new strategy acknowledges Russia as Germany’s primary security threat, its description of China – “partner, competitor, and systemic rival” – is a contradictory mash-up, and Taiwan is never mentioned. Instead, the document emphasizes Germany’s close partnership with the US, unwavering commitment to NATO, and a strengthened European Union as the institutional pillars of its defense against both actual and potential enemies.