Global Review had the honor of interviewing NATO General (retired) Hans-Lothar Domroese, who gave us insights into NATO, relations with Russia and the perspectives of the transatlantic treaty organization in the Biden era. Domroese, born in 1952, son of the Bundeswehr General Lothar Domroese, married, two sons, has worked at the NATO headquarters since 1995, since 2009 he has been commander of the Eurocorps in Strasbourg and since 2012 commander of the Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum. He retired in 2016. After his retirement he is a consultant. The views expressed in this interview are his own and not those of any organization, institution or government.
Global Review: General Domroese, with Biden’s election victory, there seems to be hope that the old transatlantic relationship will return. At the same time, commentators point out that this will not happen in the old form. On the one hand, because the global political situation and the focus of the USA are shifting from Europe to the Asian Pivot and the dispute with China. Secondly, because even under Biden, conflicts of interest between Europe and the USA would continue to exist, albeit now more diplomatic and friendly articulated and carried out. Specifically, this seems to mean that Biden also the NATO benchmark of 2%, Northstream2, a clearer positioning of Europe against China, as well will insist in reducing trade surpluses, especially since it will also be under observation by Republicans and the Trumpists. To what extent do you believe that there can be a new transatlantic consensus and what could such a compromise look like that not only satisfies Democrats but also Republicans and gives transatlantic relations a more stable minimum consensus, regardless of who is elected?
General (ret.) Domroese: We are in the midst of global power shifts – so there will be no going back to the “old days”. Today and tomorrow it is mainly about the competition between China and the USA. I see Russia and Europe more as observers in this regard, and yet we (Germany and the EU) will have to decide how we should position ourselves. Everything is related to everything; also the transatlantic relationship.
So, between China and the United States we observe a „competition of systems“: democracy with the rule of law, freedom of the press and assembly and the protection of human rights etc. on the one hand and a communist dictatorship without comprehensive freedom rights or justice on the other. Hong Kong and Taiwan are examples of this “clash of cultures”.
The world’s largest free trade agreement in Southeast Asia (RCEP), which has just been signed, shows that there is more than just “black” or “white”. The outgoing US president certainly made this pact possible with his agenda. This is called: „unintended effect“! This impressive trade agreement covers 15 Asia-Pacific nations with around a third of the world’s population. If we also want to benefit from “free” world trade, we have to revive the TTIP program with creativity and innovation and bring it to a close. America and Europe together are enormously strong economically. Together we are leaders. Building on this, one could think about a TTIP-RCEP agreement.
But in the end we Europeans and also Germany have to make a political decision: in the future we can not only see China as a „marketplace“ where we can make big profits, but there is no real win-win situation for the people. Has it gotten safer or better? Is there “free trade”? What about the reciprocity in the economic? What about human rights? What about justice?
For me it is clear: we need the “wind of change” from America, which we Europeans will receive and respond to. And we should develop a common, coordinated approach to dealing with China according to our principles and interests, which are not the same everywhere. That is good for us and our own claim, the transatlantic relationship, NATO and both “political camps” in the USA. And ultimately, it’s good for the people of China.
Global Review: Germany has meanwhile gradually and quite tacitly increased its defense budget. Does NATO’s 2% target make sense at all and how is it justified? Should it be questioned and renegotiated? Or hold on to it? In concrete terms, would it mean that Germany would increase its annual defense budget by 38 billion euros? Where should the money come from? Reduction in other areas such as the health system, welfare state, etc. or new debt? Especially in corona times? Can that be conveyed to the population?
General (ret.) Domroese: Pacta sunt servanda – I recommend that the federal government finally comply with the political self-commitment of the federal government and thus “put the lid on”.
Why? It is primarily a matter of our own military capabilities, the readiness of the Bundeswehr. In the last three decades they have been reduced by around a third. The army is out of date; the device rusts. The Defense Minister’s goals are rightly high and stretched until 2031. With interim goals in 2027 and 2023. But it is already evident that we will not achieve the goal we have set. FCAS, MGCS, MKS 180 etc. are important equipment projects for the coming decade that will need enormous sums of money. Heavy transport helicopters (STH) or the TLVS missile defense system are added – together a further EUR 20 billion, which has not yet been fully taken into account in the budget. In short: only when Germany fulfills its obligations does trust and reliability arise. Saying so and actin the other way is not possible. That damages Germany, NATO, the credibility of deterrence and thus our security. Words and deeds must match.
Admittedly, politicians have to convince our people to invest more in their own security. And that works, as I myself know from numerous lectures. Helicopters that don’t fly – ships that are on duty without a break – army soldiers without a decent gun – and so on. You can’t explain that to any reasonable person. In addition, there is a structure that professionally fulfills neither alliance and national defense assignments nor international crisis missions “from the start”.
After all, we urgently need an (armaments) procurement organization (BeschO) that flexibly promotes innovative and intelligent purchases. The simple „succession thinking“ is obsolete: Does an old airplane, ship or tank have to be followed by a new model? And then remain in use for around 50 years? I think no. The recent war between Azerbaijan and Armenia has clearly shown that the Armenian tanks were shot down in a flash by simple UAVs („drones“). Without networking or digitization, everyone will lose their strength “out of the blue” in the future!
There are good examples of change: We are fighting the COVID19 pandemic very successfully because politics and science work closely with (pharmaceutical) industry and society. This transparent discourse benefits everyone. I have been calling for this for our Bundeswehr for years: politics, science, industry and the military should work closely and fairly together. This creates transparency, trust and the right device at the right time. In the future, many small systems will face a few large ones. The „Armed Forces 2.0“ or „Future Force“ (from 2030+) will look completely different than today.
Our soldiers deserve it – the armed forces are not a traditional group! 45 billion is too much for that – and too little for a powerful Bundeswehr. In his most recent work, Prof Sören Neitzel describes the unresolved tension between society and the German Bundeswehr. It is time to rearrange this ambivalent relationship and to deal with the military in a relaxed manner.
Whether that is 2%, less or more of the gross domestic product, I would no longer discuss after 8 years of agonizing speeches. And those who do not adhere to the criteria should certainly not try to change them. Other countries that are much smaller and less prosperous can do it too. If we do not achieve the desired “… by 2024” (!) – then we should at least break new ground with a new federal government. Late – but reliably. No ifs and buts.
Global Review: Obama wanted to set up two free trade blocs against China, the transatlantic TTIP and the transpacific TPP. Under Trump that was buried and a direct trade war between the US and China started. Is a revival of TTIP and TPP to be expected under Biden or a hybrid form between direct Sino-American trade war and free trade zones? Would one in Europe be ready for TTIP, since there had already been considerable protests, especially since the largest demonstration since the peace movement of 250,000 people in Berlin. The specific reason was the fear that TTIP would involve the dismantling of labor protection, consumer protection, environmental protection, quality standards, marginal growth and employment effects as well as extra-state arbitration courts. Trump was also elected for his opposition to the previous multilateral free trade and instead called for bilateral agreements on America First conditions and fair free trade? Is it likely that Biden will re-launch this program in its old form and under the same terms of trade?
General (ret.) Domroese: I don’t think so. President-elect Biden has just announced that he will rejoin the WTO on the first day after taking office. Also the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Protocol. This shows: Joe Biden relies on multilaterism. In this respect, I could imagine that one could try “TTIP 2.0”. It must be possible that the largest economies and democracies can come to an agreement. The latest RCEP deal forces us to act together.
Obviously a very complex topic with many facets. All valuable and important challenges that affect our future. You have to reflect again, choose more innovative approaches and be prepared to compromise, otherwise it won’t work. Bilateral agreements, or cherry-picking, are not a solution. Subareas can nonetheless be easily resolved by bilateral agreement, as we know from NATO. However, this presupposes that there is a stable foundation, such as the NATO treaty. There you can not find all individual cases, such as regulating troop stationing with families, schools, daycare centers and shopping facilities. Both contracts, TTIP and TPP, are huge economic projects with political implications. Of course, these contracts are interrelated – firmly connect in the sense of a juncture, I wouldn’t. That would be too much at once. That never worked. But I could well imagine that President Biden would like to settle the “trade war of his predecessor with China” rather “peacefully” in a TPP. It has to be seen to what extent the fight against the climate change and other issues can be combined with it. One thing is clear: the issue of climate change or CO2 reductions and energy security must be dealt together.
Almost 50 years (2022) after Nixon’s visit to Beijing, I see a „window of opportunity“ to take political relations to a new level (next level). We Europeans should actively support President Biden in this. The RCEP free trade agreement between the 15 Asia-Pacific countries allows for this optimism and calls for intelligent responses. Many of America’s friendly countries are already members of the RCEP and will be happy to share their findings. We Europeans should be particularly interested in new paths. This would be a major step in joint transatlantic trade and could also curb the Sino-American threat of war. A classic win-win situation! Now is the time to act.
Global Review: In a joint guest article in the FAZ, the chairman of the Atlantik-Brücke and former Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and John B. Emerson. Former American Ambassador to Germany and Chairman of the American Council on Germany, in addition to the obligatory emphasis on community of values, proposes the following transatlantic future agenda:
– Joint development of a recovery program to cope with the consequences of the pandemic, in particular with regard to protective equipment, vaccine research and manufacture
– Reorientation of multilateralism and purposeful reform of multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization, in particular to prevent an exacerbation of social inequality
– Fighting climate change by promoting the development of green technologies. In our joint efforts to protect the world’s climate, we should also consider energy security issues. Instead of arguing about individual pipeline projects, we should develop a common strategy for future energy policy issues: by expanding the energy infrastructure including new LNG terminals in Europe; through joint research and innovation projects to replace fossil fuels such as natural gas with “green” hydrogen; or through the joint support of the Three Seas Initiative in Europe.
– economic counterbalance to China, without using the language of a “Cold War”, but according to the principles of competition; Resumption of negotiations on the transatlantic trade and investment partnership; Agreement on a fair free trade agreement with the African continent.
– Conception of a transatlantic infrastructure initiative with Africa and the Eurasian area as a democratic, fair and transparent alternative to China’s “New Silk road”.
– Using our expertise and innovation potential to develop the best digital technologies and ensure that an ethical framework is adhered to in the next phase of technological evolution. It is incomprehensible that there is no suitable western alternative to Huawei.
–Renewal of the nuclear non-proliferation regime.
– Strengthening NATO as a common defense alliance without playing off transatlantic and European defense against each other. We’re in the same boat.
What do you think of this agenda? Isn’t Russia, disarmament, New Start, arms control and Islamism also missing thematically? Or what is realistic and what is not and what is missing? How do you assess this proposed agenda?
General (ret.) Domroese: We have to differentiate between the transatlantic relationship on the one hand and the other diverse connections, so to speak beyond, “to the outside world”. I see the Gabriel / Emerson Initiative as a concrete proposal on how we can actively revive the unbalanced European-American relationship. And that is necessary. So I think the initiative is good and timely. The question of how we want to deal with Russia, Iran, North Korea, arms control, climate change, Africa, China, India and the rest of the world (that’s a bit unfairly expressed) is of course also very, very important. Here, however, I recommend formulating a national and then a European strategy first. It is about the question of the so-called „strategic sovereignty“ of Europe. President Macron wants that, without America if there is any doubt. The CDU chairwoman does not want it that way. For them the alliance with the USA remains indispensable. But she also wants Europeans to do much more for their own security – in partnership with the United States.
The upcoming Brexit, for example, is having an impact on Europe and the USA. “London as the Singapore on the Thames”, as Prime Minister Johnson hopes, I don’t see coming. Especially not in the case of a “hard exit” without a treaty – everyone knows that world trade is rule-based.
Same goes for the US – resident Biden will initially seek to unite his country, bridge divides, contain the pandemic and revitalize America’s economy. He will formulate his foreign policy goals accordingly. Only then can you clarify your own interests and go common paths with allies and partners or / and enter into competition with them. As a former commander, I know that if you have no targets, you will not have any hits. The new US administration opens up new opportunities – let’s use the momentum.
Global Review: General Wittmann has proposed a NATO reform that enhances NATO’s consultative and resilience functions. General Kujat proposes a new Harmelreport.The targetofthe Harmel report was the change in NATO strategy from MAD to flexible response and the opening of a dialogue with the Eastern bloc. Would this mean changing the NATO strategy from flexible response to a new deterrent strategy and a new Ostpolitik/East Policy or how can this be understood?
Doesn’t NATO need a paradigm shift, a new military strategy that integrates all new disruptive weapons systems and can use them flexibly in the event of war? Is the age of linear, one-dimensional and bipolar escalation ladder of Herman Kahn finally over and what should replace it?.
General (ret.) Domroese: A very good question; It is clear that NATO’s Strategic Concept from the Lisbon Summit in November 2010 no longer reflects developments in recent years and today’s reality:
The annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 exemplifies this. The invasion of Georgia and the occupation of provinces in eastern Ukraine violate the Helsinki Final Act. Support for the injustice regime in Syria prolongs the suffering there. The break of the INF contract also strains the relationship. Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, as well as the land-based medium-range missiles in Western Russia, nuclear or conventionally equipped, threaten our security.
But the huge disruptive and technological developments also force us to adapt our concept. Think of quantum computers, hypersonic glide vehicles (so-called hypersonic weapons), AI, unmanned systems, MUMT, cyber or space.
In addition, instability, wars, terrorism and migration coming into Europe strategic neighborhood in North Africa (Sahel and Libya) and the Middle East with Syria and Iran. In addition the Black Sea region and the Caucasus. And China’s pursuit of world power. Europe and the transatlantic community must answer the question of how they want to shape the future together in view of the multitude of simultaneous regional and global challenges. The heads of state and government of the Alliance have these tectonic shifts in mind, as we can see in every summit declaration. I could imagine that after Biden’s inauguration, they might give the order in the spring meeting 2021 to develop a new strategic concept. Nuclear deterrence will also play a key role here. NATO will remain responsible for the security of the Euro-Atlantic area, but it must face the strategic changes that will result from China’s rise to become an economic, technological and soon military world power. The USA is shifting its strategic focus from Europe to the Far East. Accordingly, they also plan the bulk of their armed forces for this large area. So the Europeans have to replace these forces, so do more for their own security in Europe and beyond. NATO should deepen its partnership with the democracies in the Indo-Pacific region: Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea. This helps to „contain“ the Chinese claim to power. In my opinion, it is essentially about planning out “NATO 360 °”. NATO has just approved a comprehensive concept for deterrence and defense across SACEUR’s area of responsibility. This extends from the Far North to the South and from North America’s east coast to the eastern border of the Alliance. Deterrence and defense against Russia remains the focus. There is still a lot to be done.
There is also the threat of terrorism, such as IS, Taliban and Al Qaeda in the south. NATO wants to address this danger above all by training (helping people to help themselves) in partner states such as Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq and still Afghanistan. In addition, it must be determined whether, how and where the Europeans in NATO can work more or less independently in order to relieve the USA. You could call it “leadership in partnership”. It is about a coherent armed forces package that firmly connects Europe / EU and North America and at the same time strengthens the European ability to act (“We must take on more responsibility” as a demand). If that succeeds, then we will have a real win-win situation: a strong Europe, a strong alliance, a strong political forum with global responsibility.
Global Review: Recently, forces from the Left Party to the FDP have been proposing: Rammstein away, no American nuclear weapons in Germany. The Left Party has so far called for Germany to leave NATO in favor of a European security system, but is now turning the back from the demand for an immediate exit from NATO. First there must be first steps towards a European security architecture with Russia, which would then enable NATO to dissolve. What do these demands mean militarily and politically? What steps would Russia and NATO have to take to even come close to such a security system — the often cited security area from Vancouver-Lisbon to Vladivostok? Can you take it seriously? What should be made of the demand for a European security architecture?
General (ret.) Domroese: A wonderful old dream – unfortunately completely unrealistic. Unworldly!
Russia’s regime is not democratic and does not respect treaties such as the Helsinki Final Act, START or INF, nor human rights (see poisoning attacks in RUS, London and Berlin), the rule of law, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly or free elections.
Moscow does not share our ideals, which we have pursued since the Enlightenment, the French and American revolutions – that is, for around 300 years. We want to maintain a good, neighborly relationship with the Russian people, enable security in the Euro-Asian area together and conduct fair trade. I have no hope that this will lead to a system change in the short term. “Change through rapprochement” has to be judged fact-orientated. The popular uprisings in Ukraine and Belarus show: no dictator, no regime can rule against its people in the long run. Freedom, justice and the will for self-determination are not negotiable! Libertè, Ègalitè, Fraternitè was and is the slogan of our French friends. Regarding the so-called „(Western) European sovereignty“, I am unfortunately rather cautious: We can (hopefully) just defend ourselves, but neither nuclear nor conventional deter na attack by an opponent like Russia. Our French friends can take this “last step / last resort” for themselves – but not for third parties due to the severity and uniqueness of the use of nuclear weapons. (“Mourir pour Danzig?”) The same applies to our British allies. That means: we will need the American nuclear umbrella for the foreseeable future in order to guarantee our security credibly (and that is exactly what matters!).
But we can and must have more conventional and political responsibility, i.e. concrete assignments – with all the consequences! „Well drilling“ for German troops and „capture, kill actions“ for Allied forces: that is not possible! Equal rights and obligations! Only then can Europe attain a certain „limited sovereignty“ and relieve America so that the USA can exercise its global responsibility as the protective power of the free world. Win win. See above.
Global Review: How do you think Russia policy will develop under Biden? Will this only stick with sharper rhetoric against Russia or what can be expected? Will Biden rely on regime change in Russia or will Putin try to change his behavior through increased pressure? At this year’s Valdai club meeting, Putin threatened to enter into a military alliance with China after the USA refused to extend New Start for 1 year. How seriously is this to be taken, what would that mean? Would Russia intervene militarily in a conflict in Taiwan, South China Sea, East China Sea or Sino-Indian conflict in favor of China and by what means? Is that a real threat?
General (ret.) Domroese: An interesting question: Sure, there is a strategic cooperation and joint maneuvers. But I don’t think Russia can seriously threaten a “Russia-China pact”. Who should lead whom? Xi Putin? Or Putin XI? No, I don’t see that. Russia will not strive to be officially „number 2“. Even if it is in reality. Technologically, economically, militarily, socially.
In a worst-case scenario of Sino-American relations, it is conceivable that China could ask Russia in certain (hot) phases to bind US forces in Europe and / or in MENA and / and Africa to relieve the South China Sea or Get pacific. But who knows that. A classic task for think tanks and computerized was games.
In other words: I think Russia will have to move in order to negotiate START 2 / INF. After all, the Russians want to benefit from it too. Also politically: negotiations on equal terms with the USA add value to Russia. One will find face saving options to get out of the impasse. I am hopeful.
Global Review: Wouldn’t it make more sense to try to detach Russia from China by means of a New East Policy/Neue Ostpolitik or to bring it to a neutral position in the dispute with China – perhaps with the offer to extend the New Start for 1 year? Is an arms race beyond the already ongoing modernization without an arms control agreement between the US, China and Russia is not likely and shouldn’t China be persuaded not to increase its 250 IBCMs to Russian and US levels?
General (ret.) Domroese: I do not believe in the „enemy of my opponent is my friend“ behavior. In the long run, states must treat each other with respect, reliability and fairness. That creates trust and stability in political relations.
The Chinese armament is indeed enormous; and there is currently no sign of China’s willingness to join an arms control regime. So we have to think about attractive offers (incentives) that are acceptable to the Chinese leadership.
Iran and North Korea are other countries with which we have to negotiate. Here, too, China can play an important role; as a protecting power for North Korea when they hand over nukes. The West can offer economic cooperation. As is well known, the Iran-Nuclear Deal divided Europeans and Americans apart. Today we have to discover that Tehran continues to enrich uranium, as the UN nuclear regulatory agency IAEA has determined. Obviously, Iran is now able to produce three nuclear weapons in the short term. We wanted to prevent that. But we don’t. Now we are facing a raven-black result. We Europeans cannot want an Iranian regime with nuclear weapons – and Israel cannot tolerate it. Here, too, Germany will have to “take on more responsibility”. It would be a catastrophe if this conflict weas becoming militarily. Action must be taken here quickly. A joint US-EU initiative needs to be on the table quickly. In this respect, I also see a better situation under President Biden on this critical point.
Global Review: How should NATO deal with NATO member Turkey? Should one hope that Erdogan will one day be deposed or still accept himself as a partner with his new neo-Ottoman Empire, which he wants to establish with the help of the Muslim Brotherhood in North Africa to Syria and Jordan and possibly with nuclear weapons?Is Erdogan-Turkey like the German Empire before the 1st and 2nd World Wars in Europe now in the Greater Middle East? To what extent is it likely that Erdogan will form an alliance with Russia or join the SCO?
General (ret.) Domroese: Admittedly, the recent initiatives of the Turkish President indicate a change of direction that in principle does not fit with NATO’s policy and strategy. The purchase of Russian air defense systems undermines NATO integrated air defense; uncoordinated gas drilling in Greek waters in the eastern Mediterranean increases the risk of armed conflict among allies; the action against the Kurds in Syria is contrary to international law; And last but not least: the support of Azerbaijan in the attack on Armenia shows that the Turkish government wants to divert attention from domestic political unrest, economic decline and dictatorial ambitions. That will not succeed because the Turkish people realize that the last elections with constitutional amendments were a coup d‘etat.
Russia can help Turkey militarily. Yes. Even with gas deliveries. But nothing else. Will it be safer? Is it getting better? Is there more free trade? Is it a win-win situation? It is easy to see that switching sides from NATO to Russia will not bring any long-term benefits. So I am optimistic that this phase will also pass. Until then we should patiently support our Turkish friends. They are excellent soldiers and friends. From a geopolitical perspective, it is imperative to keep Turkey by our side.
Global Review: The War on Terror, which now seems to be over and which should have been better conceived as a War against Islamism and should not have overthrown mainly secular Arab despots such as Saddam Hussein, Ghaddafi or Assad, is now replaced by the fight against the great powers Russia and China, as well as the regional powers Iran and North Korea. While everyone is now looking to Russia and China, the Islamists are growing again, including Erdogan-Turkes idea of the neo-Ottoman Empire with the Muslim Brotherhood of all countries, we could probably have two Islamist belts. one from the Sahel to Nigeria with the Islamic State and a second from North Africa and the Horn of Africa (Somalia / Sudan) to Syria with Muslim brothers supported by Erdogan and the FIS in Algeria. The whole thing is also driven by Palestine and Jerusalem. And there is also the US-Iranian conflict at the top, and it remains to be seen whether the PLO can still keep in power and not be toppled by Hamas or even more radical forces. In South Asia, the Taliban will be strengthened after the NATO withdrawal the Islamists in Pakistan, the country with the first Muslim atomic bomb, are on the advance and India is also facing a problem with its Muslim population and their partial radicalization and Islamization, the Kashmir conflict is by no means solved, Islamists in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia are a growing power, just as the Rohingya conflict in Burma, exploited by Islamists, will destabilize the governments of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh through alleged Islamic solidarity. In Central Asia, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), led by China and Russia, has so far ensured stability, as has the increasingly Islamic Kadyrov in Chechnya, who is also becoming less reliable and is also a butcher. What strategy would you propose against the growing Islamism and can NATO still play a role in this or are alliances like the anti-IS coalition no more advanced or maybe even an anti-Islmalism alliance of the West, India and Russia?
General (ret.). Domroese: I would like to contradict your initial thesis: NATO is not waging a religious war of faith !!! We’re enlightened people.
Counter terrorism, or CT for short, wants to protect freedom. Independent of religion. „Every Muslim is a terrorist“ – NO! The reverse is also not true: every terrorist is a Muslim. Even if it is perceived that way in many places.
In Germany we know terror from the left (RAF) and right (NSU); Ireland / UK know about Catholic and Protestant terrorists; the Turks the PKK; Russia the Chechens; Iraq IS, Nigeria Boko Haram … And we know so-called “rogue states” that disregard, insult, exploit and murder their people. Engage in genocide.
The aim of all NATO countries is to put an end to this inhumane behavior and to give people a concrete perspective on a better life. That is what the West wanted in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Iraq, and NATO in Libya and Afghanistan. We partially made it. But we are still a long way from where we would like to be. Our Belgian friends have been in the Congo for over 60 years – and they still have to help tomorrow so that the country does not sink into chaos. Pulling out and giving up is not a good alternative. This applies to many countries, e.g. also for Afghanistan.
And yet, after 20 years of strong military presence and billions in aid, one must soberly analyze the results and adapt the strategy. Stakes must not become a bottomless pit. Progress must be made! Goals must be negotiated and achieved together. “Conditions based support”: Donor countries must insist on this. One cannot „forever“ support foreign countries with a (large) military presence.
NATO is unique. It is a political alliance with powerful military headquarters and national troop contingents. Ad hoc coalitions cannot. Individual lead nations, such as the world powers, can do that too. None of the others, or at least not “from scratch”. The EU is currently building a leadership structure and with PESCO it is trying to become capable of military action step by step. But it is not yet today.
First of all, the decisive factor is what one wants to use such a “power” for. The political goal must be clear to all actors. And I don’t see that in your example. Fight against terrorism – okay. Alliance defense – sure. Fighting pirates – yes. A common goal “fight against Islam” would contradict our ideals and values. I am firmly convinced that the EU, NATO and Germany would not follow suit.
Our German history, especially the terrible Nazi era, teaches us: never again to accept industrialized murder of religious groups. Art 4 (1) GG demands: Freedom of belief, conscience and freedom of religious and ideological creed are inviolable. (2) The undisturbed practice of religion is guaranteed. I.e. we have to deal with this phenomenon politically, socially and socially. It is not a military question.
Global Review: What did the armament race under Reagan against the Soviet Union and its SS 20 mean militarily? The USA under Reagan indirectly expressed nuclear war threats, dead armaments and NATO´s Airland Battles and the NSC directive 54 by Colin S. Gray, which declared nuclear wars to be “limited, feasible and winable” against the Soviet Union and became common catchwords. Reagan’s then Vice-President George W. Bush senior in 1980 in an interview with the Los Angeles Times correspondent Scheer declared::
Scheer: Don’t you reach a point with these strategic nuclear weapons where we can destroy each other so often … that it really doesn’t matter anymore whether you’re ten or two percent below or above?
Bush: Yes, if you think there is no such thing as a victor in a nuclear battle, then the argument makes sense, I don’t think so.
Scheer: How do you win a nuclear exchange?
Bush: You have a survivability of command and control structures, a survivability of industrial potential, protection of a percentage of the citizens, and you are able to do more damage to your opponent than they can do to you. That way there can be a winner.
It is questionable whether Bush senior was serious, but Reagan’s nuclear war threats, nuclear jokes or NATO maneuvers such as Able Archer 83 seemingly more and more created panic and high alert in the Warsaw Pact. Did the Sovjet leadership believe in NATO’s war threats and did she consider them as real? Would it have been possible to wage a war on the European battlefield with the Pershing 2 and Cruise Missile that is „limited, controllable and winable“?
General (ret.) Domroese: No, nobody wanted that either. A war in Central Europe, especially from a German point of view, had to and must be avoided at all costs. Germany would have become the battlefield. This shows that deterrence works. You describe the principle quite correctly: you need three things, to put it casually. First, the weapons; secondly, a credible deployment strategy, and thirdly, a potential attacker who is convinced that “we” will strike back and that his damage would be greater than his gain. It’s just not worth it. It was like that and it is still like that today. Yes – the „attacker“ has to firmly believe it. And we must not leave any doubts about our firm will to defend.
Global Review: Another writing that caused heated debates was General Sir John Hacket’s bestseller “The Third World War”, in his book with a foreword by General Kielmannsegg, the West after an attack by the Soviet Union in Europe, Africa and Asia was pushing the Sovjet forces back on all fronts, whereby the war would essentially remain an „electronic war“ and Europe would be reunited. In the military magazine Europäische Wehrkunde , General Hubatschek aired the scenario that NATO should penetrate deep into the Warsaw Pact area and then, as spoils of peace, undertake land swaps, including former German Eastern territories. Could that be taken seriously?
General (ret.) Domroese: Up until recently there have been excellent, imaginative and absolutely “realistic” essays about a fictitious Soviet or Russian attack on the West or NATO. Sir Richard Shireff, British four-star general (ret), a friend with whom I served in NATO for many years, wants to wake us up with his 2017 work „War with Russia“. There is always a core truth in it. The annexation of Crimea, for example, could well have been in these stories.
In response to your question, I can say that NATO has always reserved the right to strike back „according to our choosing“ in the event of an attack on one or more allies. That’s part of the deterrent. The reaction must be to the detriment of the attacker or, in the worst case, unimaginably terrible for him.
Global Review: What did the deployment of the Pershing 2 and cruise missile mean militarily? Did the USA decouple itself from the battlefield Europe and could thus threaten more credibly and deter the USSR with the prospect that the war would remain limited to Euroshima. Were these weapons intended to carry out decapitation strikes against Soviet leadership and control structures?
General (ret.) Domroese: It’s all about perception. You speak of land-based cruise missiles. The European and German view was that the stationing of Soviet SS-20s served the goal of enabling a nuclear exchange and at the same time being able to limit it to Europe – without directly involving the USA. The Soviets wanted to separate the United States from Western Europe. A nightmare from a German or European point of view.
It is thanks to Chancellor Helmut Schmidt’s diplomatic skill, paired with firm conviction and strategic foresight, that medium-range missiles were “counter-deployed” in Germany. American systems should firmly connect the United States with Europe in such a way that America’s separation from Europe cannot happen. And this straightforward steadfastness and clear policy of “arm in order to disarm” has convinced everyone, friends and opponents. A great merit from Helmut Schmidt. A role model in attitude and personality!
Global Review: General (ret.) Naumann said that NATO would be the core of Joe Biden’s planned Alliance of Democracies; Madeleine Albright wanted a Community of Democracies, John Mc Cain a League of Democracies, but apparently nothing came of these plans, as well from Ivo Daalders Global NATO. Should such an Alliance of Democracies be orchestrated militarily by NATO in Europe and the Quad in Asia? The Washington Post said it was impractical to just establish a value-liberal alliance, since one would exclude such important potential allies who are not democracies. E.g. states like Vietnam. What do you think and think of this idea?
General (ret.) Domroese: As I said at the beginning, we are facing enormous challenges in the midst of global power shifts. It is therefore right for America to gather like-minded nations around it in order to shape this transformation peacefully. We need leadership and vision – and if President Biden wants to do that, all the better. NATO and the transatlantic relationship will form the foundation for this claim and this project.
Other important partners complement the actors: India, Australia, Japan and the USA stand together as „QUAD“ to, among other things, to militarily curb Chinese influence in the Pacific. Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the US with others guarantee the integrity of the only democracy in the Middle East and keep Iran in check. The EU is reaching out to Africa. Vietnam, once the United States‘ war opponent, today a friend and partner, promotes free trade in the region.
This list can be continued. We will also have to think about the long overdue reform of the United Nations on our way to 2030. Take climate change or the COVID19 pandemic as an example: only joint, cross-border answers make sense.
Global Review’s Note: The issue of an Alliance against Islamism is not an Alliance against Islam. It’s interesting how these terms get confused and mixed up over and over again. It is neither about a religious war of faith (unless on the part of evangelical fundamental Christians or Islamists), nor a NATO crusade against Islam. You don’t need new crusaders. The War on Terror was also a sham. Above all, secular, pan-Arab despots such as Saddam Hussein, Ghaddafi were toppled or the West wanted Assad to be overthrown. In fact, as an unintended effect, Islamists were becaME really strong. What did these secular dictators have to do with terrorism or Islamism, even if Bush Jr. seriously claim Saddam is cooperating with al Qaeda. That was an obvious propaganda lie, like the weapons of mass destruction. Especially since the Axis of Evil was not about terror, but implicitly about nuclear proliferation. Scholl Latour criticized the term War on Terror quite realistically. And War on Islamism or Alliance against Islamism does not mean War on Islam or a fight against Islam or a clash of civilizations. Also, no one, with the exception of Islamophobic right-wingers, claims that every Muslim is a terrorist or an Islamist. In addition, in the aftermath of 9 11, the term Islamism is mainly considered narrowly in its terrorist or even militant form, i.e. Al Qaeda, Taliban, Al Shabab, Boko Haram, Islamic State etc.. But there are also legalistic Islamists such as Khomeini, Erdogan´s AKP or the Muslim Brotherhood, who want to establish their Islamist dictatorship primarily through a mass party and then become expansionist, as in the case of Iran or Erdogan-Turkey. The main proponent of any efforts to transform NATO into an Alliance against Islamism is the head of the Middle East Forum and former Islam expert in the Bush Jr. administration, Daniel Pipes – he does not want a fight against Islam, but the fight against Islamism. He advocates and advertises also to exclude Turkey from NATO and then to lead the fight against Iran, Erdogan Turkey and other Islamists. A classic neocon, which is somewhat ideologically colored and the question is whether this is realistic at all, does not even take into account any geopolitical calculations of the respective great powers, which work together with Islamist governments such as Iran or Erdogan-Turkey and actually only with the ad hoc coalition against the Islamic State or on the Taliban, there was broad consensus. It is therefore foreseeable that this Alliance against Islamism or War on Islamism demanded by Pipes will probably not come into existence and is more of a pipe dream. And neither in the West nor in Russia this seems to be of particular interest, as we were also able to learn from Russian sources. In addition, Macron’s example and his lack of support for him, how restrictive and defensive the West and others are acting in this direction.
GR readers` comments:
I had mixed feelings when reading the interview. On the one hand, the fighting spirit and the clear visions are impressive, as is the reliability of the tried and tested Cold Warrior Domröse, who helped us through the ups and downs of the East-West conflict, as well as the actually logical and obvious goals and the direction. TTIP2.0, TTIP-RCEP and NATO 360 degrees. Actually all reasonable suggestions. It is correct: Pacta sunt servanda and that one should use the favorable moment. Still, I have some doubts. Under more favorable conditions, Brzezinski sketched a G2 between the USA and China as a grand strategy on the wall, talked about Chimerica, with Obama it was TTIP and TPP. Nevertheless, these large-scale drafts never became a reality, in fact we are experiencing almost the opposite today. Especially since Trump broke with the principle of Pacta sunt servanda very fundamentally and nobody knows whether treaties concluded under Biden will still be valid in 2024 or will not be terminated again. The moment is short and for it to be longer would require the Trumpists to be contained and isolated within the Republicans in such a way that a reasonably reliable minimum foreign policy consensus can be established between Democrats and Republicans. It is also not known whether a Mike Pompeo or a Mike Pence, who also have a rather evangelical touch, would be an improvement over Trump or would not continue America First 2.0 or whether a new shooting star for the Republicans could appear. But we probably have no choice but to seize the opportunity and the moment and push it forward in order to make it more sustainable and not let it slip away. Perhaps one should also heed the advice given by British court maids at the English royal family to noble virgins before their wedding night: Close your eyes and think of England and the Empire!
A very ambitious agenda that is being proposed. It seems to have become fashionable to put a 2.0, 4.0 or light behind every term and then to believe that the problem can be solved so easily. A few specific questions remain. Would a new Iran deal be accepted and what would its terms be? Do you want to continue to allow missile tests and foreign expansion of Iran and then again limit nuclear enrichment to only 10 years? Wouldn’t this be just a time shift in the ongoing problem of a nuclear Iran? Will Iran agree to anything other than the old Iran deal at all, especially since it is already demanding compensation? What should the proposed US-EU initiative contain? Can a nuclear Iran still be prevented at all or shouldn’t one rather think of suitable deterrent strategies? Similar to North Korea. Just as Iran will not make its nuclear infrastructure negotiable, so won´t North Korea want to become denuclearized. After the Iraq war and the fall of Ghaddafi, Kim Jong-un is likely to see the nuclear weapon as his guarantee of survival. Also questionable whether he would trust China as a guarantor, especially since all US governments tried everything possible – from Axis of Evil to sunshine policy and all sorts of mixed forms. Economic sanctions and the other way round, economic incentives have so far not influenced North Korea’s nuclear course, especially since the Juche, now Songsun ideology is still in force. North Korea’s leadership is willing to let parts of its population starve than to abandon its nuclear weapons.