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US and Western Defense Policy in the Next Four Years


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Four years ago I started a thread about Security Policy Implications Of A Trump Presidency. It eventually got locked due to the antics of the usual suspects, so I thought I'd post a new one just ahead of this year's US elections without regard to who might win them (as I said elsewhere previously, I think they're completely open at this point despite the favorable polls for Biden). It has after all frequently been pointed out that many things Trump has expressed in his typical Trumpish way are really long-standing grievances in US politics and public, as far as either bother with international security; so it's widely expected that a President Biden wouldn't just reverse course 180 degrees either. American allies have been preparing accordingly, up to and including the possibility that the US will eventually just abandon its global leadership role for lack of will, inner cohesion or even capabilities.

I was prompted by a speech of German defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer this week, which was underreported even domestically to the point I only saw it today, and delves a bit into this question. Probably as good a starting point as anything.

Quote

Speech by AKK: Presentation of the Steuben Schurz Media Award

Date of publication Oct 26, 2020

On the occasion of the presentation of the Steuben Schurz Media Award, Federal Minister of Defence Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer pointed to the threats posed towards the Western system of values in these times.

"Today, the West as a system of values is at risk in its entirety. It has once more become essential for Germany to confirm its commitment to the West. So that Europe can keep the peace. So that Europe can defend Western culture, freedom, the rule of law, the international order based on binding rules for all, and open markets."

The Steuben-Schurz Society is the oldest German-American friendship organisation.

Check against delivery

Dr. Beermann,
Mr. Schneider,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is always a joyful event to receive an award, but especially when the recognition comes from such a distinguished source.

The Steuben-Schurz Society is the oldest existing German-American Friendship forum. It has witnessed and suffered through the highs and lows of German history itself. For decades it has been at the forefront of transatlantic efforts as a mediator organization, in local communities, with students, at the very foundation of our countries' relations.

An award given from the depth of this experience is a special honor for me.  

Receiving this award now is a great joy also because these are such unusual times.

For anyone who promotes friendship with America these days, in this emotionally charged and politically polarized transatlantic environment, can expect to be sharply and often sweepingly criticized.

[...]

Most of all, however, America has given us what we call ‘Westbindung’. And this is more than just a geographic location. Germany is firmly anchored in the family of democratic, open societies of the West.

Konrad Adenauer, closely working with America, led the Federal Republic towards the West, and Helmut Kohl, together with America, integrated a unified Germany even more closely into the West.

Westbindung, to me, is and remains a clear rejection of the historic temptation of equidistance. Westbindung anchors us firmly in NATO and the EU and ties us closely to Washington, Brussels, Paris and London. It clearly and rightly positions us against a romantic fixation on Russia – and also against an illiberal corporative state that rejects parties and parliaments.

Westbindung is the answer to the famous “German question”, the question of what Germany stands for. Germany is a firm part of the West, and this is the only answer that makes peace possible at the heart of Europe.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, we may have to answer a new German question.

Today, the West as a system of values is at risk in its entirety. It has once more become essential for Germany to confirm its commitment to the West. So that Europe can keep the peace. So that Europe can defend Western culture, freedom, the rule of law, the international order based on binding rules for all, and open markets.

It is only with Germany's strong support that Europe will be able to return to this strength.  

And again, it is essential for this development to take place in close partnership with the United States.

Only America and Europe together can keep the West strong, defending it against the unmistakable Russian thirst for power and Chinese ambitions for global supremacy.

I am therefore firmly convinced that this new German question must be answered by a new German realism.

What does that mean?

First of all, it means being able to live with a paradox: on the one hand, Germany continues to depend on America’s strategic protection. On the other hand, it must at the same time become a much more active upholder of the Western order.

While remaining a “receiver” in strategic terms, Germany must, at the same time, become a much more resolute strategic “giver”.

We must be clear about this: We cannot provide our own nuclear deterrence, nor do we want to. This is why America must remain by our side and protect us.

At the same time, we Europeans will have to do ourselves much of what America has largely done for us so far, by diplomatic and by conventional military means. Securing NATO’s eastern flank. Crisis management operations in our immediate neighborhood outside of Europe. Air and sea surveillance.

[...]

Our Westbindung is therefore a fateful question both for us and for Europe. If there is to be a West in the future that we can have any ‘Bindung’ to, we must stand up for it. More than before. And side by side with the United States. That is my conviction. And that is why, ladies and gentlemen, I am a transatlanticist.

And precisely because that is what I am, I should not hide the fact that right now, it is not always easy to commit to transatlanticism. Because it is not only up to us to ensure that this relationship is working.

Washington, too, must give us a sign that it considers the defense of our interests and values to be a joint project.

We have come against walls in recent years which I hope will not shape the future of our relationship.

Let me be perfectly clear: We are prepared to change our policies, have tough debates, adapt to new situations, and accept new realities when it comes to defense. But we will not stand for disruptive politics.

Our hope is that the broad lines of US policy will become more prominent again in the future.

This does not mean that we do not understand the changes that are happening in the world and in the balance of power.

We know that in the decades to come, American foreign policy will inevitably differ from what it was in the past. The geopolitical situation requires this.

But this does not mean either that we should look down upon the very thing that has proved so successful in the transatlantic relationship: NATO and its Alliance solidarity.

Europe’s security depends on NATO.

Aggressive Russian policies make this plain, as do the many other crises and conflicts spreading across our continent from the northeast to the southwest.

But let me add this: It is not only the Europeans who need NATO. America needs this Alliance too. Because

  • NATO makes the United States a European power.
  • NATO provides the United States with a reliable circle of Allies.
  • NATO allows the United States to prove to the whole world that it lives up to its promises.  
  • NATO, which grants the power of veto to even the smallest of its members, allows America to show its cooperative, integrative and protective side. America is not a hegemon that demands unconditional allegiance. This is without precedent in history.

But even looking at all this, there are still some Americans who are not convinced that they need NATO. I understand that. Because there is one thing still missing:

That is for the Europeans to take powerful action themselves, when push comes to shove. So that the United States can see Europe as a strong partner on equal terms, not as a damsel in distress.

As you can see: the German dilemma is a European dilemma as well. We stay dependent, but at the same time, we must come into our own.

[...]

https://www.bmvg.de/en/news/speech-akk-presentation-steuben-schurz-media-award-3856630

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Sounds pretty good to me. But its still avoiding the elephant in the room, what do we do about China? That isnt just a Pacific problem, its increasingly a European one too, not just militarily, but economically and politically also.

Its easy to fixate on Russia,but we need an out of area response on how to deal with terrorism and other issues outside of the historical NATO area.  Its clear Germany wants to do more, its not particularly clear from that they want to do out of area operations. Which means investment in things not immediately useful against Russia, such as a larger navy, or strategic lift capability.

Im not being specifically critical of Germany, the British Government, whilst desiring a global reach, is simply not putting the resources into it, or making the logical conclusions such a foreign policy requires. Neither for that matter are the French. And unless we do more to fix that problem, the Americans are never really going to be satisfied that putting resources into European defence is a two way street.

Good article though, and thanks for sharing.

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If you read the full speech at the link, China does in fact play a major role. I just habitually try to limit the length of posted content from other sources to present what I consider the meat of the issue.

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Oh ok, fair enough then.

Second: Let me address the major topic of China.  

As a leading export nation, we Germans are greatly concerned about how China has positioned itself in international trade matters. Our concerns include  

  • currency manipulations that have been going on for a long time;
  • aggressive appropriation of intellectual property;
  • unequal investment conditions;
  • state-subsidized distortion of competition.  

Our partners in the European Union and many other nations share these concerns, including the United States.

But we do not support every position and every initiative by the government in Washington on this issue. Especially when it comes to trade, a functioning multilateralism is in Germany’s interest.

Our goal is therefore not to increase isolation, but to strengthen the global regulatory framework, with the WTO at its core, in order to achieve prosperity for everyone through free markets and open trade routes.

German interests – and European interests – need a system that can counter these two threats to liberal trade: China’s aggressively controlled state capitalism and the attempt at unilateral isolation and decoupling that we are currently seeing in Washington.

I therefore propose that we take on the challenge of global competition on the basis of a newly consolidated Western trade alliance.

It should not be an absurd idea to negotiate an agreement between the European Union and the United States that would completely remove all customs duties and trade restrictions between the transatlantic partners. And that is open to anyone who wants to strengthen and support the liberal, rules-based order.

Rather than a particularly good economic deal, such an agreement would be a strong signal of growth, free and fair trade and global standards that would be clearly understood worldwide – including where this is most needed.  

 

Yeah, I agree with all that, though again, i think are not doing enough to recognise we need also to stand by our friends in Asia as they face not only economic domination, but potential military domination as well.

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The speech seems hoping that Biden wins the election and things go back to the way they were for NATO.  She talks about Russia and China, but the tone seems more worried about internal divisions in the alliance, specifically with Washington under a Trump or Trump successor.   

The bit that Germany "cannot" provide its own nuclear deterrence is a strange comment.  Why can't Germany consider its own nuclear deterrent in a situation where the US is becoming more distant?  That dog don't hunt.

The talk about Europe and Asia also seems cloudy - Europe has enough trouble agreeing on defense measures in Europe, let alone all the way across the world in Asia.

Did she have a "Biden 2020" tee shirt on while giving the speech?  

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Glenn, Germany is never going to have its own nuclear deterrent. Leaving out the technical difficulty of doing it without any nuclear power stations, there is the political reality that Germany with atomic weaopns is going to piss off Russia to a quite profound degree, not to mention the Poles.  That is if right wing Tories didnt press the button first. Whether its right or wrong, its the political reality, and its unlikely to change in my lifetime.

We all really missed the boat on doing a common European nuclear deterrence. Though looking back, even when the UK was in the EU, I dont really see how we could have made that work. Its tortuous even as part of a NATO process.

 

 

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It is obvious that with changing population in US and Europe too that it will push both blocks apart.  If Biden wins it will not be him running the show, and Democratic party is moving to hard left.

If Trump wins he will more worried about China and the internal US situation because the Left Democratic party will launch a low level insurgency, rioting and violence will continue.

There are two strong internal forces against US connection to Europe:  the Democratic party veering to extreme left and the population changes with much less roots in Europe.

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Well without touching on the American political situation which is increasingly becoming a complete bore, I dont see a Democrat or Republican administration making any difference at all, at least in the near term. The American disengagement from Europe started under George Bush Junior. It continued under Barak Obama. So thus far, I dont see as it really changing much of what was already an ongoing trend.

Is Russia still a threat? Well it wants to be seen to be a threat, so one might as well honor them with how they wish to be perceived. Interestingly I was reading something this morning that illustrates that the Pentagon still perceive them as a problem, and are mooting building smaller aircraft carriers because they recognise there is not enough resources to confront Russia and the emerging Chinese threat.

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/why-guy-charge-navy-wants-123700656.html

So presumably someone in the Pentagon still believes Europe is still worth defending.

 

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The way things now are in US politics of course, the Democrats will at least profess an undying commitment to NATO simply because Trump has questioned it. But there is no doubt that the US is seeing China as the real emerging opponent and will focus more on it, and really has at least since Obama's "pivot to Asia", if not longer. Also, American dissatisfaction with burden sharing in the alliance goes back at least to the Clinton administration, and probably Eisenhower. The question is, will the US accept that greater efforts by its allies also come with a reduction of American leadership power? That's the contradiction that has been at the heart of Washington's stance ever after Bush sr.

As for nuclear weapons, despite Trump's early "everbody should have them to care for themselves" claptrap, the US cannot be interested in former allies becoming new nuclear powers. It's also a very long way to a European regime that could really replace the American nuclear umbrella. The French, realistically the only power that could become its stem cell, only just started a discussion process with their partners how their arsenal could be utilized for common security; but it really goes against their dogma that it's the ultimate guarantee of their national sovereignty, to be controlled by the President of the Republic alone. Sure, if the US withdrew its protection tomorrow, minds would be focussed, and a basic security would be guaranteed; European nuclear capabilities are about the size of China's after all, which seems to do just fine with them. But a more sustainable scheme than the current national arsenals would be needed in the long run.

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Well thats a very good point. American politicians will never counternance their troops serving under European Generals (well not without having an American leader above them). A larger European contribution is going to start dwarfing American contributions, perhaps even in some naval commitments. Which is probably not going to go down completely positively, whatever they say now.

Im less concerned about the nucleus of a nuclear Europe, than the command authority to use it. It doesn't strike me as very workable to consult 27 states before pressing the button. After all, we have seen how long Brexit took. :)

 

 

 

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Germany is just another midsize nation who thinks it can order the mighty USA around. They think they can still pretend to be an ally, when in reality Trump has them exposed as enemies.

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A good, overall review of past, current, and need for future N.A.T.O., German, and U.S. relations. N.A.T.O. without the U.S. can defeat a Russian invasion (something I don't see happening at all.) N.A.T.O. exercises near the Russian border shows the Russian bear is now cub sized. What I believe needs to be done is a coordinated N.A.T.O. effort to confront Russian election meddling. However I am not able to figure out how this could be done.

She was dead on imo about China. Confronting China in a coordinated N.A.T.O. non-military effort on the currency manipulations, 
aggressive appropriation of intellectual property,unequal investment conditions(not sure what that means), and state-subsidized distortion of competition(would this be hypocritical?) Perhaps N.A.T.O could send some liaison officers to countries sharing a border; land or water, with China -- and the U.S. -- to lay the groundwork for any future, potential problems that could come up?

 

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3 hours ago, Stuart Galbraith said:

Well without touching on the American political situation which is increasingly becoming a complete bore, I dont see a Democrat or Republican administration making any difference at all, at least in the near term. The American disengagement from Europe started under George Bush Junior. It continued under Barak Obama. So thus far, I dont see as it really changing much of what was already an ongoing trend.

Is Russia still a threat? Well it wants to be seen to be a threat, so one might as well honor them with how they wish to be perceived. Interestingly I was reading something this morning that illustrates that the Pentagon still perceive them as a problem, and are mooting building smaller aircraft carriers because they recognise there is not enough resources to confront Russia and the emerging Chinese threat.

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/why-guy-charge-navy-wants-123700656.html

So presumably someone in the Pentagon still believes Europe is still worth defending.

 

There is no real question of defending 'Europe' with the possible exception of the Baltic edge case, rather the open question is the commitment to the resources and posture required for continued or consolidated westward expansion, for example the extensive commitments that would make threats to come to the defense of Ukraine credible.

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While they can. The German P-3s are on an accelerated way out - further modernization has been stopped after recent rewinging, and they are to be phased out from 2025 rather than until 2035 now. They were never in good shape, having been bought from the Netherlands in what turned out to be rather worn condition, and one of the eight was severely damaged in a fueling incident this March. The plan was to eventually replace them by the French-German Maritime Air Warfare System based upon the Airbus 320, but this will not be ready at the earlier time of retirement. So a number of interim solutions is being looked at, some of which already were in the running as alternatives to the A320 - Boeing P-8, Kawasaki P-1, Airbus C-295 MPA, ATR-72 ASW. Of course unless there's a leasing scheme, the first two types would have a good chance to become a permanent solution, which by political logic means they don't have good chances to be selected (see original competition for the P-3 successor).

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The P8 would be great, then Germany could get on the joint Sonarbuoy stockpile that is being built up in Scotland for them.

 

22 hours ago, KV7 said:

There is no real question of defending 'Europe' with the possible exception of the Baltic edge case, rather the open question is the commitment to the resources and posture required for continued or consolidated westward expansion, for example the extensive commitments that would make threats to come to the defense of Ukraine credible.

My own view, if Ukraine or Belarus ever fully come under Russian domination, most of our commitments to Europe come under increased threat. For example, look at a map of the Baltic states, and a Russian dominated Belarus would make defending them all but impossible. Im happy to see these remain as a kind of informal neutral zone, but its also abundantly clear that Russia is not. So NATO may as well consider the possibility for intervention in those states, if only to ensure Russia doesn't go further than it already has. Not to actually do it, but to present the capability that it could do it if it had to.

To be honest, it would only be codifying what already is going on. I gather Poland has an agreement with Ukraine to send in forces, and has trained to that effect. Which from Poland's point of view makes perfect sense. But it remains a slippery slope. How do you deter without also precipitating further Russian aggression? I dont know, but whatever we are doing doesnt really seem to be working that well, at least for the border nations.

 

Edited by Stuart Galbraith
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NATO is a dodo. Germany cannot at the same expect the US to underwrite European security AND not call the shots. If Germany wants nukes, let them get some. I have no doubt their European partners will be fine with that. The British have sodded off and the Americans are far away. Germans like to think that things are hard. They are not. You want nukes, say so. No big deal. The New Americans do not care if Germany, Europe and NATO chart their own route. You buy USian or you get 25% on your car exports. Simple.

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43 minutes ago, BansheeOne said:

While they can. The German P-3s are on an accelerated way out - further modernization has been stopped after recent rewinging, and they are to be phased out from 2025 rather than until 2035 now. They were never in good shape, having been bought from the Netherlands in what turned out to be rather worn condition, and one of the eight was severely damaged in a fueling incident this March. The plan was to eventually replace them by the French-German Maritime Air Warfare System based upon the Airbus 320, but this will not be ready at the earlier time of retirement. So a number of interim solutions is being looked at, some of which already were in the running as alternatives to the A320 - Boeing P-8, Kawasaki P-1, Airbus C-295 MPA, ATR-72 ASW. Of course unless there's a leasing scheme, the first two types would have a good chance to become a permanent solution, which by political logic means they don't have good chances to be selected (see original competition for the P-3 successor).

Sending something. Just the mere doing anything with JSDF is going to send a strong signal. But the whole speech doesn't even mention Japan. I saw not long ago that the P-1 was no longer in consideration. Something like concerns that it might not achieve flight registration in time or something like that. 

 

But I wasn't sure how to respond at first. It's still the Defense Minister and no mention of the South China Sea and so on. So it looked like lots of fancy talk with little expectation for hard results was what I thought TBH. And also to help prop up German sentiment for the US. Althought both the US and Japan adoped pretty much the same "free and open Indo- Pacific". Echoing that would have been a strong signal.

 

Still, just getting economic and diplomatic cooperation in the international realm is a big point.

Edited by JasonJ
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Fully agree, especially the last sentence is the most important. Just as China's maritime neighbors are forming alliances against China, N.A.T.O. needs to do the same in the economic and diplomatic arena. On a related note, I notice Russia's Western neighbors doing the same thing against Russia. 

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5 hours ago, Simon Tan said:

NATO is a dodo. Germany cannot at the same expect the US to underwrite European security AND not call the shots. If Germany wants nukes, let them get some. I have no doubt their European partners will be fine with that. The British have sodded off and the Americans are far away. Germans like to think that things are hard. They are not. You want nukes, say so. No big deal. The New Americans do not care if Germany, Europe and NATO chart their own route. You buy USian or you get 25% on your car exports. Simple.

Agree, winning the economic war against Germany is more important than NATO.

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That is just a laughable position. Give us nuclear umbrella or we will get our own. Germany should be encouraged to get nukes and join North Korea and Pakistan. 

Germany can replace the UK as the EU's 2nd nuclear power. Given the unwillingness to run nuclear power plants, what is the likelihood of the German public supporting nuclear weapons?

I suppose hypersonic cruise missiles will be the delivery platforms of choice.

It's time for Germany to emerge from the shadow of WW2. To take her rightful place under instant sunshine.

Edited by Simon Tan
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