This article first appeared on NTV.de
The Bundeswehr is facing a strategic reorientation. In a confidential policy paper available to "Spiegel", four-star general Eberhard Zorn ordered at the end of September that the Bundeswehr must prepare itself more effectively for an impending conflict with Russia. A central change should concern the reduction of foreign missions and the strengthening of national and alliance defense.
The paper is entitled "Operational Guidelines for the Armed Forces". It initially states that foreign missions should be less of a focus in favor of national and alliance defense. According to Zorn, the Bundeswehr has been present in numerous foreign missions, such as Afghanistan, in the Balkans or in Mali, for three decades. However, this would no longer do justice to the current situation, meaning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Visible and credible deterrence would now be much more important, so Zorn. In his words, the armed forces would have to arm themselves for an "imposed war".
Zorn is thus alluding to a conflict on NATO's eastern flank, which he believes has become much more likely again. The "Spiegel" writes that the focus on national and alliance defense is not entirely new. It should have been strengthened after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Since then, small advance commands have been stationed in the eastern NATO countries. However, there has never been a serious threat from Russia, as now seems possible after the invasion of Ukraine. This circumstance has also led to a rethink in the Bundeswehr.
According to the report, Germany must live up to its "leading role in Europe". This would lead to expectations on the part of the alliance partners that Germany could not convincingly confirm at the moment. Difficulties in equipping Bundeswehr soldiers, including during deployments on NATO's eastern flank, were repeatedly made public. The NATO plans to be able to mobilize a rapid reaction force within a few days and move it to Eastern Europe do not appear feasible in the current situation. So far, there were no plans to have a division – 10,000 soldiers including combat equipment and logistics – ready for just such a rapid reaction force. However, that has now changed in view of the situation in Ukraine. By 2024, Germany should be able to provide a fully equipped division.