Germany ditches US-style National Security Council to relieve political deadlock

Germany ditches US-style National Security Council to relieve political deadlock
Опубликовано: Saturday, 18 February 2023 20:25

The move paves the way for the German government to complete its first national security strategy as early as next week.

MUNICH — Germany has decided to drop plans to create a U.S.-style National Security Council after the idea ran into a buzzsaw of partisan squabbling within the country’s three-party coalition government.

The move has cleared the way for the government to finally complete its first official national security strategy as early as next week, two officials told POLITICO.

The spat is part of a long-running fight within Germany’s government over who sets the tone on foreign policy — the Social Democrats running German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s office, or the Greens running the foreign ministry.

The proposed National Security Council — intended to streamline the foreign and security policy decisions of different German ministries — ran right into that fight as officials haggled over where it should be housed. The Social Democrats wanted it under the chancellory, the Greens wanted it to rotate between ministries.

Now, the security council won’t be housed anywhere, with foreign and security decisions being dealt with in the existing structures instead.

With the contentious issue out of the way, the German government now appears able to proceed with its delayed national security strategy. The two officials said the strategy is nearly complete and that the government’s three parties — the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) — could agree to it next week.

A third official was more cautious, saying the agreement may take a week longer, but emphasized there was a great determination to get things done swiftly amid the backdrop of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Friday.

A government spokesperson said last week that the consultations on the national security strategy were “in the very final stages.”

Germany’s ruling coalition had initially aimed to finalize the strategy within its first year in office, which ended in December. Then it said the document would be unveiled ahead of this weekend’s Munich Security Conference — a target that was also missed amid disagreements on issues like defense spending as well as the turf war over the National Security Council.

At one point, the Greens’ foreign policy spokesperson Jürgen Trittin criticized the SPD for trying to set up a “shadow foreign ministry” under the auspices of powerful Scholz aide and chancellery chief Wolfgang Schmidt.

To overcome the stalemate, the parties decided to simply drop the council as a new institution with its own staff base, according to two of the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak in public.

One official suggested, however, that existing bodies such as the federal security council, which brings together cabinet members to discuss issues such as arms exports, could be upgraded to better coordinate the government’s foreign policy.

Once the government settles on its national security strategy, it will go to the German Parliament for further consultation before being published.

Germany’s national security strategy is also linked to another upcoming contentious document: the China strategy. That text is also still being negotiated amid disagreement between the chancellery and foreign ministry over how tough the language should be.

Scholz said Friday at the Munich Security Conference that he does not want to decouple Germany’s economy from China but stressed that it was necessary to “reduce critical dependencies … with regard to strategically important raw materials or future technologies.”

Scholz insisted Germany was “already strengthening our own production capacities, for example in semiconductors.”

“I also see this goal as part of our national security strategy,” the chancellor added.

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