Is Germany Considering Maritime Missions in Asia?
“Our partners in the Indo-Pacific region…feel increasingly pressured by China’s claim to power. They want a clear sign of solidarity. For valid international law, for intact territory, for free shipping. It is time for Germany to send out such a signal by showing its presence in the region with its allies.”
— German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer
Without explicitly mentioning the term, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer recently foreshadowed a novel development: a German Freedom of Navigation Operation — or FONOP — in the South China Sea. While her November 2019 keynote address on security policy focused on the future relationship between the European Union and NATO and the development of the German defense budget, the passage of the speech which sketched the contours of a foreign deployment of German armed forces (Bundeswehr) was an important development that has remained neglected by most reporting. For a country with a deeply embedded culture of military restraint since the aftermath of World War II, such a mission would be a remarkable step.
There is some precedent. Berlin is participating with larger contingents in international military operations in Afghanistan, Mali, and Iraq, and elsewhere. It is also participating in the European Union Naval Force-Somalia (EU NAVFOR Somalia), the European Union’s mission to protect humanitarian aid supplies to Somalia, ensure free navigation, and combat piracy off the coast of Somalia. And a German officer has already participated in a FONOP conducted by the French Navy in Asia.