In an interview, outgoing NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen discusses Germany’s postwar tradition of pacificism and his belief the country is now ready, and indeed has the responsibility, to take on a greater role in global affairs.
SPIEGEL: Twenty-five years after reunification and almost seven decades after the end of World War II, has Germany become a country just like every other in terms of security policy?
Rasmussen: Germany is a normal country today, with the kinds of rights and duties other countries have. That’s why Germany should play an important role in foreign and security policy, be it in the EU, NATO or in international politics.
SPIEGEL: So he spoke directly to your heart when German President Joachim Gauck recently called for a more active German foreign policy, military means included?
Rasmussen: I don’t want to interfere with a domestic German debate. But I do very much agree with the position expressed by the German president. I welcome this debate. And not only as NATO secretary general, but also as the former prime minister of Denmark, the small neighbor country once occupied by Germany. Germany needs this debate. I can understand Germany being very cautious when it comes to international military deployments because of its past. But the time has come in Germany for this debate. Europe is ready for it, too. The goal should be to develop a common understanding for how Germany’s new role might look.
SPIEGEL: Gauck has been badmouthed as a “warmonger” for his push. Are the Germans a pacifist people?
Rasmussen: The Germans are still very conscious of their past and are therefore reserved in terms of their international engagement. I respect this position. At the same time, Germany has become such an important actor on the world stage economically and politically that it can’t simply sit back when it comes to international affairs. Germany is strong, and everyone expects it to take on an active role. That is decisive for Europe’s future.
SPIEGEL: Even within NATO opinions about what needs to be done are already drifting apart.
Rasmussen: We have unanimously agreed on all important steps – that’s the basis for all decisions in the alliance. We have strengthened our surveillance of air space, dispatched naval ships in the Baltic and Black seas and turned national military exercises into joint NATO maneuvers. As it did in Afghanistan or in Kosovo, Germany also played a very active role.
SPIEGEL: Do you believe that German soldiers are prepared to die for Estonia or Latvia?
Rasmussen: That’s a very pointed question and a hypothetical one on top. Let me just say this: I have no doubt that a NATO country, if it is attacked, can count on the aid of all other 27 member states.
SPIEGEL: So you’re saying Article 5 of the NATO treaty, under which an attack on one is considered an attack on all, is not an empty promise?
Rasmussen: Definitely not. Article 5 is the essence of NATO. If we do not honor this obligation 100 percent in an emergency, then this alliance will be dead.
SPIEGEL: There is a current discussion about the procurement of combat drones in Germany. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has announced she would seek approval from parliament before any drone deployment takes place. Is that even possible in practice if it effects allies?
Rasmussen: I think so. It is normal in democracies for parliament to monitor the use of military means.
Full article: NATO’s Rasmussen: ‘Active Role’ for Germany ‘Decisive for Europe’s Future’ (Spiegel Online)