In farewell address, outgoing German defense minister lashes out at European allies (adding alternative translation)
It was a surprise when German chancellor Angela Merkel last December chose Ursula von der Leyen, up to then minister of labour in her previous conservative-liberal government, as the first female German minister of defense in her new ‘grand coalition’ cabinet. Predecessor Thomas de Maizière (pictured above with von der Leyen and German chief of defense Gen. Volker Wieker) returned to the ministry of interior, a post he had held previously.
On Januar 8, the new minister, the defense ministry and the troops bade farewell to de Maizière with a Grand Tattoo (Großer Zapfenstreich). The speech de Maizière held at the reception prior to the Tattoo can be heard and read in German here; when adressing the international obligations and missions of the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, the outgoing minister chose to lash out at some European allies. For my international readers, here’s my translation of this paragraph:
As acting minister of defense, I had to be reluctant in my wording sometimes. Today, this is not as necessary as before. So I would like to mention one thing with regard to our missions: Germany does not need any advice from anyone in Europe on the way and the extent of our international missions. Also not from France or the UK. (Applause) In international missions, our engagement is several times larger than that of France. France, however, has other strong obligations, out of national interest. Germany stands to its obligations, even when this might be difficult domestically. No German government has been let down in parliament when asking for parliamentary approval for a mission. Especially in Afghanistan, the most difficult mission, we made clear very early our readiness for a sustainable engagement, more than all our European allies, including the UK. I would not have said this while still being minister of defense. But that’s what I thought.
(Addendum: My English has become a bit rusty since my wire service days with the Associated Press decades ago; so I’m happy to offer an alternative translation by one of my readers that comes closer to the officialness de Maizière conveyed in his speech… weiterlesen
ArcticWatch: Russia flexing its muscles
Not even a week ago, I chaired a panel discussion in Berlin on the Strategic Challenges of the Arctic Sea. All panelists – a Danish military, a Canadian researcher, a British researcher and the Head of Strategic Planning for NATO – were pretty adamant about their impression that all nations with interests and stakes in the Arctic were willing to resolve disputes in the region peacefully. (Regretfully, no Russian representative had been found to take part in this panel.)
A week later, there are sounds from Moscow which seem to contradict a general impression for the peaceful solution of disputes. AFP reports:
President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s military on Tuesday to step up its presence in the Arctic after Canada signalled its intention to claim the North Pole and surrounding waters. weiterlesen
The High North: Strategic Challenges in the Arctic
The Strategic Challenges in the Arctic Sea were the topic of a panel discussion at the Conference on Security Policy and Defense Industry, organized by the German daily Handelsblatt, in Berlin on December 4. I had the privilege to host the discussion with Stefanie Babst, Head of Strategic Planning at NATO Headquarters; Colonel Steffen Qvist Wied, Defense Attaché at the Danish embassy in Berlin; Whitney Lackenbauer from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada; and Duncan Depledge from the Royal United Services Institute in London.
For the participants and for my files I recorded the panel session, and I think I should share it with those of my readers who are interested in the High North – so here it is (the unedited version):
(Photo: ‘Arctic from the ship’s bridge’ by Flickr user ashatsea under CC-BY-SA License)
While waiting for the new figures, find the old ISAF statistics here
Over the last year, ISAF had provided each month statistics on security related incidents in Afghanistan, called Monthly Trends. In January this year, these statistics disappeared from the ISAF website, leaving no explanation but just a This page is not available. note (see above). And yesterday, the AP reported that there indeed had been a reason to pull the metrics from ISAF’s internet presence – in a nutshell: the figures were wrong. Taliban attacks not down after all, the wire story read, quoting a spokesman for the military alliance that the advertised 7 per cent decline was, uhm, way beyond the mark: In fact there was no decline at all, officials said.
The main reason for the wrong figures, obvoiusly, was the wrong integration of green reporting, not correctly counting the attacks on Afghan National Security Forces while attacks on ISAF forces went down. (For that reason, the German armed forces had to correct their statistics in January, admitting that instead of a decline the numbers had been the same.) weiterlesen
After two years’ trial, Somali pirates get prison sentences in Hamburg
It should have been an easy case. More than two years ago, a gang of armed robbers captured a merchant vessel in the Indian Ocean. Before they could take the crew hostage, the seamen hid in a safe room, stopped the engines and called fort help. And help came swiftly: a few hours later, heavily armed soldiers fast roped from a helicopter, re-took the vessel and arrested the pirates.
What happend on Easter Monday, April 5, 2010, on the German-flagged MV Taipan off the Somali coast, however, turned out a judicial nightmare for the district court in Hamburg, Germany. After almost two year’s trial, the court handed down the verdicts today: seven pirates got six to seven years in prison; the three others, considered minors at the time of the attack, got three years as juvenile delinquents.
During the trial, the first against pirates in this German port since since Klaus Störtebeker hundreds of years ago, a First World judicial system met Third World defendants. It startet with the usual routine of finding out date and place of birth – but the answers, typically during the rainy season and under a tree didn’t quite match the standards of Western court proceedings. As three of the indicted Somalis probably were minors at the time of the attack, their exact age had to be found out: one of the defendants understood the examination in a German hospital with an x-ray machine, according to Germany’s weekly Der Spiegel, as a prelude to swift execution.
Misunderstandings like these were abundant, weiterlesen