The year of reunification and those immediately following were also decisive as regards the defensive sector of Germany: if on the one hand the annexation of the GDR led to the dissolution of its people’s army and the incorporation of about 50,000 of its members into the Bundeswehr, the army of the Federal Republic of Germany, on the other hand, the end of the Cold War led to a significant reduction in the number of troops: the approximately 550,000 soldiers of October 1990 have been more than halved over the years, up to the current 181,550. Parallel to the reduction in military personnel, the defense budget also gradually underwent significant cuts: a choice, that of the economic downsizing of the German military sector, which did not fail to generate discontent among Germany’s major allies, especially within Germany. of NATO, whose member governments appeared concerned about the risk of a Berlin disengagement in the field of multilateral security. There are still garrisons of US soldiers stationed in Germany (about 40,000 in 2015): the United States owns the largest of its air bases abroad on German soil, in Ramstein. The approximately 20,000 British soldiers remaining in Germany will be completely repatriated to the United Kingdom by 2019. The last contingent entirely made up of French soldiers returned to France in 2014, while the joint Franco-German brigades remain present on the territory. Dutch forces are eventually present in a body of Dutch-German defense of the Rapid Response Force of NATO.
In 2002, Germany, contributing to the mission ISAF -led NATO in Afghanistan, participated in his first operation peacekeeping outside the European theater (the third largest contingent after the US and the UK, including those engaged in the mission ISAF). Since 2003, Germany has been in charge of the ISAF regional commandin northern Afghanistan where over 1500 German soldiers remain stationed: following the persistent Taliban presence in the area and the fall of Kunduz in September 2015, Berlin announced that it is willing to extend its presence in the area beyond the official deadline for the withdrawal of troops, that is beyond 2016. The issue of the participation of German soldiers in international military operations remains particularly controversial in the German public debate, both from the point of view of political expediency and from that of constitutional legitimacy. Just think of the strong opposition to the war in Iraq expressed in 2003 by the German electorate and supported in multilateral forums by the then Chancellor Schröder. In addition to Afghanistan, German soldiers are currently engaged in theKfor in Kosovo. Little more than symbolic is the participation in theaters of significant strategic importance for other European powers such as Lebanon and Mali. Germany has so far remained strictly non-interventionist also with regard to the Syrian conflict.
Bonn is home to Occar, the joint organization for military cooperation in arms, founded in 1996 by Germany, France, England and Italy as a European center of excellence for the production and development of the most modern and technological equipment. military.
The role of Germany in Europe after the Second World War
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the political and territorial structure to be given to Germany was the main topic of confrontation between the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union. All attempts to reach an agreement for the drafting of a German peace treaty, however, failed. The opposition between the two superpowers favored the division of Germany, consecrated in 1949 with the birth of the German Federal Republic (Brd) and the German Democratic Republic (Ddr). Unlike East Germany, entangled in the logic and rigidity of the Soviet bloc, West Germany acquired, since the immediate postwar period, a central role in Europe and in the Western world. The strong economic dynamism and the political solidity linked to theKonrad Adenauer’s leadership made the BRD rise to the power of reference in Western Europe. Animated by a sincere Europeanism, the West German ruling class also knew how to exploit community policy to overcome the reservations that the main European governments had towards the political and military rebirth of Germany. The proactive role played by the BRD in promoting the European Coal and Steel Community (1951), as well as the unfortunate European Defense Community project (1952-54), should be read in this perspective.
The latter represented an attempt to reconcile the rearmament of West Germany, necessary to face a possible military confrontation with the Soviet bloc, with the safeguarding of the countries that had been victims of Nazi aggression during the war. The failure of the attempt favored a displacement of the issue on the Atlantic level: on the basis of the agreements signed in Paris in October 1954, the BRD entered the Atlantic Alliance and at the same time joined the Western European Union. In this way the rearmament of West Germany began, which in any case found a limit in the impossibility of acquiring nuclear weapons.
During the years of the Christian-democratic government, the BRD maintained a closed attitude towards East Germany: the federal government combined its lack of legal recognition to the non-acceptance of the eastern borders of the GDR. According to the so-called ‘Hallstein doctrine’ (1955), any foreign government (with the exception of the Soviet one) that recognized the GDR would automatically break off relations with the BRD.. This policy went into crisis during the 1960s, following the construction of the Berlin Wall (1961) and then with the start of the detente process. The rise to power of the Social Democrats in 1969 marked a turnaround, with the attempt, promoted during Willy Brandt’s chancellorship, to normalize relations between West and East Germany. Eastern policy (Ostpolitik), which came to fruition in 1973, led to mutual recognition between the GDR and BRD, as well as a series of agreements between the latter and the main countries of the Eastern bloc.
In recent years, Germany resumed the leadership of the European integration process, concentrating the common effort on economic and monetary issues. Faced with the imbalances in the global economy that developed from the early 1970s, Germany promoted the creation of the European Monetary System (1979) which led, in the following decades, to the promotion of the economic and monetary union initiated with the Treaty of Maastricht (1992) and perfected until the entry into force of the euro.
The events of 1989 and the collapse of the Berlin Wall overlapped the action within the community. The inter-German policy for reunification and that for European integration, while formally proceeding on separate tracks, in fact merged. During Helmut Kohl’s chancellorship, European politics also proved functional to effectively address the vacuum generated in the East by the dissolution of the Soviet empire.