At a time of profound change, Berlin and London need to step up their cooperation. This is the appeal of a german-British politician duo.
- Defence policy cooperation between Great Britain and Germany exists, but there is room for improvement. They have no basis in a treaty, as they exist on both sides with other allies.
- Both countries stand by Western values, as evidenced by their support for Ukraine. They are central pillars of NATO and should be its most important pillars in Europe.
- The EU would also benefit from increased cooperation between these two core NATO countries. For the UK, relations with its EU partners are crucial in terms of security policy.
- This article is available in German for the first time – it was first published by Foreign Policy magazine on May 22, 2023.
Britain and Germany need to expand their defence cooperation to strengthen European security following the illegal invasion of Ukraine. That's the conclusion of a groundbreaking report published last week by Germany's Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and the British think tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
We warmly welcome this report and want a far-reaching german-UK defence and security agreement to be concluded within six months of the next British general election, as a joint initiative of British Labour Party leader Keir Starmer and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. This move will create jobs, strengthen NATO and ensure the security of both countries.
We commissioned the FES and RUSI report back in autumn 2021. Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 once again highlights the need for more intensive bilateral cooperation.
The cooperation between Great Britain and Germany can be expanded
The report contains 19 recommendations to improve german-UK cooperation in the field of defence. These include the development of a bilateral treaty, increased cooperation on joint procurement projects, and more intensive cooperation between the British Armed Forces and the German Bundeswehr on operations and training.
Nils Schmid, foreign policy spokesman for the SPD in the Bundestag, and John Healey, British Shadow Secretary of State for Defence and Labour MP, call for increased military cooperation between their countries © Collage/Britta Pedersen/Dominic Lipinski/dpa
Both nations have compatible armed forces, a cooperative industry, and shared values. The British Armed Forces and the German Bundeswehr have a long history of joint operations and exercises and have a deep mutual understanding through British bases in Germany. However, we believe that cooperation remains underdeveloped, especially compared to other key allies.
Britain and France signed the Lancaster House Treaties in 2010 to strengthen defense cooperation through technology exchanges, joint procurement, and the launch of the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force. Germany and France have also committed themselves to far-reaching cooperation with the 2020 Treaty of Aachen (an update of the 1963 Élysée Treaty). However, there is no such contractual security relationship between Great Britain and Germany.
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There is a need for a far-reaching contractual basis
Without such a far-reaching contractual basis, cooperation is provisional rather than systematic. Nevertheless, they do exist. For example, there has been cooperation between Great Britain and Germany on fighter aircraft for 40 years. Both countries have cooperated in Kosovo and Afghanistan, as well as in the fight against the Islamic State. In March of this year, as part of NATO's air policing missions in Estonia, the Royal Air Force and the German Air Force conducted joint maneuvers for the first time, intercepting Russian aircraft.
Nevertheless, only 28 German employees are currently being trained in Great Britain and only six British employees in Germany, including one Briton each in the German Navy and the German Air Force.
Industrial cooperation through joint procurement programs is one of the most visible and important forms of military cooperation between allies. Just as the Tornado and Eurofighter jets,as products of multinational cooperation, have contributed to Europe's security in recent decades, the British Army's Boxer programme builds vehicles in Great Britain that benefit from German know-how. However, there is currently only one bilateral defence procurement programme between the UK and Germany (the Wide Wet Gap Crossing project) and only eight multilateral procurement projects involving both countries among others.
Both countries are firmly committed to Ukraine and NATO
Allies are a strategic strength. We believe that closer german-British cooperation in the areas of defence, security and foreign policy can significantly strengthen the ability of both countries to respond to common challenges and protect their citizens.
As follows from the RUSI-FES report, the UK and Germany are currently the two largest European donors of defense funds, supporting Ukraine with military, economic and humanitarian assistance. Transatlantic relations and NATO are at the heart of both countries' policies. Following Russian President Vladimir Putin's large-scale invasion of Ukraine, cooperation is needed now more than ever. NATO's 2022 report said the invasion had "shaken peace and severely altered the security environment in Europe."
We believe that closer german-British cooperation (...) can significantly strengthen the ability of both countries to respond to common challenges and protect their citizens.
Nils Schmid, John Healey
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) described the moment as a turning point; just days after Putin's troops invaded Ukraine, Scholz overturned Germany's decades-long defense policy. Meanwhile, the British Labour Party has pledged its full support for military assistance to Kiev and the strengthening of NATO allies. Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, she has been pushing for London to rethink defense planning and spending. Both parties are committed tointernational rules and multilateral institutions.
Germany and Britain should form the core of NATO's European pillar
The commitment of the British Labour Party and the German SPD to NATO is unwavering. This alliance of democracies is the cornerstone of Europe's defence. European NATO countries need to take more responsibility for European security, especially in light of the growing US strategic engagement in the Indo-Pacific. Germany, as part of the EU, and Britain should together form the core of a stronger European pillar in NATO.
The defense industry must respond quickly to this new security environment, as must governments facing tight economic constraints that must formulate higher demands. The turning point creates new areas for industrial cooperation between Great Britain and Germany. Both countries can work together to take advantage of these opportunities, share costs, reduce risks and create steady demand. This would help drive standardisation and interoperability and expand the industry into new areas.
The EU would benefit from greater german-British cooperation
The EU has also proven that it can make an important contribution to Europe's defence and security with its sanctions against Russia and its humanitarian, economic, financial and military aid to Ukraine. That is why NATO explicitly describes the EU as "a unique and important partner".
As is well known, the EU is of central national interest to Germany. A functioning partnership with the EU, based on trust and deeper cooperation in areas such as security policy, has also clearly been in the UK's national interest since the Ukraine war. Closer bilateral cooperation in the military sector between these two countries could support complementary cooperation between the EU and NATO.
One of NATO's three core missions, along with defence and deterrence and cooperative security, remains crisis prevention, with the alliance committed to "becoming the leading international organisation in understanding and adapting to the impacts of climate change." There are good reasons to believe that Germany and Britain could work together to develop an independent security agenda. The security threats posed by inequality, climate change and shortages of food, water and health care must be recognised; efforts to counter these threats must be accompanied by adequate investment in armed forces and military cooperation.
About the authors
John Healey is the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom and a Labour MP.
Nils Schmid is foreign policy spokesman for the Social Democratic Party of Germany.
The UK's security depends on its relations with its EU partners
We want the RUSI-FES report to stimulate a broad debate on an ambitious german-British agreement on defence, security and foreign policy. The report's recommendations provide a solid basis for this. The objectives focus on building a European pillar of NATO, developing interoperability and expanding industrial cooperation in the field of defence.
For the Labour Party, the report is a reminder that restoring ties with European allies is critical to Britain's national security. The Labour Party accepts Brexit and will not rejoin the European Union or the single market. For Brexit to work, however, Britain needs to restore ties with key European allies that have been damaged – often intentionally – by the British government's actions in recent years. A german-British security treaty would be an important step in this process.
Germany and Britain can be a stronger force for good in the world if they work more closely together.
Nils Schmid, John Healey
To achieve this, we need new leadership and a relationship between Berlin and London based on reliability and respect to strengthen security in Europe. As the Ukraine war shows, allies and alliances are important. Germany and Britain can be a stronger force for good in the world if they work more closely together. (by John Healey and Nils Schmid)
We are currently testing machine translations. This article has been automatically translated from English into German.
This article was first published in English in the magazine "ForeignPolicy.com" on May 22, 2023 - in the course of a cooperation, it is now also available in translation to the readers of IPPEN. MEDIA portals.
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