German Military Reform: Forward march

As it celebrates its forty-fifth anniversary, Germany’s military is changing. The conscript armies waiting at the borders to face a Cold War aggressor are about to be slimmed down. The new force will be ready to join allies in wider European defence, but not before some debate about soldiering and the state.

The World Today
Published 1 October 2000 Updated 28 October 2020 6 minute READ

Kerry Longhurst

Research Fellow, Institute for German Studies, University of Birmingham

John Roper

Member of the Chatham House Council

The ten years since the end of the Cold War have seen major changes in German thinking on the role of its armed forces. Germany was absent from the alliance which fought the Gulf War in 1991, but, by the end of the decade a consensus emerged that the role of the Federal armed forces – the Bundeswehr – should be broadened to allow them to operate well beyond the nation’s borders. Virtually all German politicians had previously considered this not only unthinkable but also unconstitutional.

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