The unwavering commitment to the transatlantic partnership and therefore to the Nato is one of the recurring duties of American and European speakers at the Munich Security Conference. For years, this has traditionally come from the US side, calling for Europeans to make their appropriate contribution to the Alliance's capabilities and commitment – invest more and do more. In Europe, especially in Germany, there is pressure to increase spending in line with the goals agreed with the partners and to modernize the Bundeswehr. Thus, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen came to the prelude on this Friday can not but promise again. The friends on the other side of the Atlantic also had to remind them of what it means to act together.
To come to two percent of GDP in defense expenditures by 2024, as agreed in 2004, this mark will not reach Germany. According to the current state it will be 1.5 percent. But "that's a feat", underlined von der Leyen in Munich. There is a clear plan and that Federal government stick to the two percent target. She rightly called the "American call for more fairness in the burden-sharing": "We know that we have to do more, especially we Germans." This must be paired with increased military cooperation in Europe, which is still too fragmented, and a reliable common policy line – all of which are directly exploited by NATO.
For Von der Leyen, NATO is "more than a military alliance," and the principle of fairness in the transatlantic friendship must also apply to political decision-making. What sounds like a matter of course in the 70th year of the Alliance is obviously anything but easy these days. The defense minister emphasized the maxim "Together in, out together" for the NATO missions and referred above all to Afghanistan, where the mandate of the Bundeswehr had just been extended for a year. Meanwhile, the want United States About half of its 14,000 troops stationed there withdraw their troops, regardless of progress in peace talks with the Taliban, and their plans for Syria and Iraq are also viewed with concern by the partners. "Together in, out together" must also mean "decide together", demanded von der Leyen – that just does not work very well at the moment.
"Clearly formulated skepticism"
As for Afghanistan, US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan assured his NATO counterpart on Thursday that there would be "no one-sided troop reduction". On Friday morning, however, the coalition against the "Islamic State" came together before the security conference, also in Munich. The partners of the US had hoped to finally learn more about the US withdrawal plans for Syria. Shanahan's predecessor, James Mattis, was in protest of this largely uncoordinated decision by US President Donald Trump resigned last year. After the meeting, it was said that the partners were so "clearly skeptical" of the US as they are rarely seen in such circles. Reuters quotes a senior European diplomat as saying, "We're still trying to understand how the US is planning the withdrawal." Thus, there is no clarity: Neither a concrete timetable for the withdrawal nor a solution to the conflict between Turkey and the Kurds in Syria have been presented.
Decide jointly, this must also apply to Syria and Iraq, where almost all NATO members contribute to the fight against the IS, said von der Leyen in her speech. In view of the bumpy decision-making already within the US government, this is at least in part a desperate desire rather than a description of the status quo of the transatlantic partnership. US Defense Secretary Shanahan emphasized that the US wanted to intensify the fight against IS along with its allies in regions outside of Iraq and Syria – until the terrorist militia was defeated. President Trump has already felt that this goal has been ticked off and remains an uncertain factor for developments in the region.
"Do not make the same mistakes"
American Senator Lindsey Graham could be someone Trump hears. He said in Munich that he had told the President that a withdrawal of US troops in Syria should not lead to the return of the IS. It also had to be prevented that the NATO partner Turkey in the Syrian border area against Kurdish militia proceed. He called on the US allies to support a military security zone in Syria with their own soldiers. The president was prepared to leave a limited US contingent in Syria and strengthen and direct the mission with other US capabilities if the Europeans joined in. For this, the Americans would continue to advertise in Munich: "Let's not make the same mistakes in Syria that we have made in Iraq." German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas meanwhile warned against a major attack by Syrian and Russian troops in northern Syria. All talks are currently aimed at preserving the interests of the Kurds and at ensuring "that there will be no large-scale military intervention".
Thus, while the situation does not get any easier, the allies seem to have made every effort to agree on common goals – although von der Leyen stated that there was "broad consensus" that the fight against IS in Iraq and Syria was not yet completed. She was not worried about the inner strength of NATO, said the defense minister at the end of her speech. For such a clear statement, some optimism is needed these days.