On July 8th, Germany’s leading magazine Der Spiegel broke the news that Germany’s incumbent Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere is one of the leading candidates to replace Anders Fogh Rasmussen as NATO’s Secretary General in the summer of 2014. The news of his candidacy for NATO’s highest civilian leadership, asks the question “Is Herr. de Maiziere a good choice to lead NATO?”
Germany’s Suffering Reputation
In the past eight years, Germany’s reputation in NATO has been considerably damaged due to their lukewarm commitment to NATO’s missions. Germany has faced heavy criticism from its international allies due to its limited engagement in combat mission in Afghanistan. Though, Germany sent over 5,000 troops to Afghanistan, the German Parliament restricted their role in training mission. This lopsided contribution led to a barrage of criticism from other NATO defence ministers, including Canada’s Peter MacKay, who questioned Germany’s commitment to NATO. And when the Libyan crisis flared-up, Germany abstained from the United Nations resolution on Libya in 2011. Later, De Maiziere removed German soldiers from the aerial contingent that was enforcing the no-fly zone over the embattled African nation.
Bundestag officials have often blamed the necessity for parliamentary approval for military operations for these non-committal actions have left a sour taste with NATO members. Even with this excuse, only 10,000 of the 185,000 Bundeswehr troops are available for foreign missions, even when the parliamentary approval is granted.
The Botched Drone Program
In June this year, De Maiziere had to face a no-confidence motion in the Bundestag due to his role in the cancellation of an unarmed surveillance drone program. This program had already cost nearly 500 million euros ($665 million) of Germany taxpayers money. Although De Maiziere survived the no-confidence motion, the botched drone program will be seen as his failure as manager in charge. Laced with fears about Germany’s commitment to smart defence, the European members of NATO are concerned that Germany might renege on its contribution to fund NATO’s own drones. De Maiziere has tried to assuage their concerns by indicating that the contribution had already been approved in last year’s budget and that Germany is willing to stick to its commitments.
The role of the NATO Secretary General is to bring all member countries to support the Alliance under the premise of collective defence. If de Maiziere does indeed become the next NATO Secretary General, considering his record as Defence Minister, we can’t be very optimistic.