Desert War

BERLIN/PARIS/BAMAKO (Own report) – The German Foreign Minister has confirmed Berlin’s readiness to become involved in the war in Mali. To his French counterpart, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Guido Westerwelle offered Germany’s “political, logistical, medical, and humanitarian” support for the intervention in France’s former colony. However, the German Minister of Defense, Thomas de Maizière, declared that there would be conditions to be met. Only when “the prerequisites are clarified and fulfilled” would Berlin be able to take part in the military mission. These statements from the German government show evidence of a dual strategy. On the one hand, Berlin is insisting on concessions to strengthen its position in French-dominated West Africa, and on the other, a German participation is supposed to thwart French-British unilateralism, as in the case of Libya. Berlin feels threatened by this sort of unilateralism, because since some time, Paris and London have been strongly enhancing their military cooperation, leading some in the German capital to suspect – not without reason – that this could be a means to escape Germany’s EU predomination, at least in the domain of military policy. In the meantime, the war in Mali has intensified after only a few days.

The New Entente Cordiale

A military policy alliance between Paris and London, concluded in November 2010, formed the basis of this enhanced strategic position. Within this alliance, the governments of both countries finally, after a protracted period of convergence, agreed to an assortment of arms trade and military projects, including the establishment of a common intervention force and joint testing of nuclear weapons.[3] The strategically conceived military cooperation was first put to the test in the attack on Libya, where France, after losing several of its closely allied dictators, sought to revive – under strong German opposition – its former prominence in North Africa. In alliance with London – and with support from Washington – Paris’ success was more than merely overthrowing Gadhafi. In fact, the French and British armed forces are carefully assessing their performances in the war from the perspective of future joint operations. The close cooperation between Paris and London is worrying Berlin. “Because, in the past, Germany had blocked numerous French diplomatic and military initiatives, France is now turning to Great Britain,” according to the specialized journal “Internationale Politik.”[4] This is why, since some time, German government advisors are insisting on decisive countermeasures being taken.

A Dual Strategy

For this reason and – unlike in the case of Libya – Berlin is not completely refusing engagement in a military intervention in Mali, even though this intervention would take place in a Francophonian country, where the dominating influence of the former colonial power has been impenetrable for Germany. Already in October 2012, the Chancellor promised that the Bundeswehr would participate in training Malian soldiers,[5] a promise that since has been reaffirmed. The objective is to show presence – not at the front line, because French interests are particularly at stake, but with a non-negligible contingent. Berlin would also like to have this contingent serve as a bargaining chip to strengthen its position in Mali. Two benefits could be achieved, the enhancement of the German position in West Africa and the prevention of an exclusively Franco-British military alliance. Recent declarations of the German government have been based on this strategy.

Full article: Desert War (German Foreign Policy)

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