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Rede des Verteidigungsattachés Brigadegeneral Bernhard Altersberger anlässlich des Empfangs zum 68. Gründungstag der Bundeswehr

Tag der Bundeswehr

Tag der Bundeswehr, © Deutsche Botschaft Peking

17.11.2023 - Artikel

Ambassador Dr. Flor, Excellencies, colleagues and comrades, distinguished guests,

on behalf of the German Defence Attache Office team in Beijing I would like to thank you for joining us today celebrating the 68th anniversary of the German Armed Forces. This offers an special moment sharing some defining thoughts about the Bundeswehr:

Firstly, and that is particularly unique, after Germany´s unification the Bundeswehr constitutes an Armed Force of two former bitter enemies.

Secondly, the role and mission of the Bundeswehr experienced two fundamental changes, in 1989 and again last year.

Thirdly, since its founding day, the Bundeswehr has been a coalition army i.e. already in peacetime major parts of all services are firmly integrated into the NATO Command and Force Structure, such as the the 1st German/Netherlands Corps or the Multinational Corps Northeast. Both, national and collective defence in the context of NATO or deployments abroad have been conducted always alongside our allies and partners.

Until a year ago, 1989 was, without any doubt, the most significant year of change for the Bundeswehr. The fall of the Berlin Wall presented a unique moment in history that had to be navigated skillfully by those in political responsibility: it was necessary, on the one hand, to prevent a security vacuum in the heart of Europe; on the other hand, to ensure, a new German military threat did NOT loom over our European neighbours again. The army of the former adversary, the National People’s Army of the German Democratic Republic, got dissolved and partially integrated into the Bundeswehr, in a first step, the two Armed Forces merged from almost 700,000 to 370,000; thus an Army of Unity emerged.

A few thousand military personnel of East Germany‘s National People’s Army were accepted to continue their service in the Bundeswehr. The best among them became professional soldiers and quickly rose to leadership positions.

I would like to share a personal example about this fast, fair and fully successful integration process: In 1995, just five years after the beginning of Germany’s unification, a former East German transport pilot, LtCol, who was also one of the last East German graduates from the Russian Frunse Military Academy, became my Deputy Squadron Commander and later on hold other flying related leadership roles. Beyond that, former National People’s Army officers were promoted to the rank of General. Without any doubt: The Army of Unity has been a success story, both militarily and socially.

Strategically at the same time, the focus shifted away from national defence to peacekeeping and crisis response. Defence budgets and force sizes decreased significantly. Heavy armored units were replaced by mobile and deployable forces. Before deployed in the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea, the German Navy instead enforced sanctions in the Mediterranean and countered terrorism and piracy off the Horn of Africa. In Afghanistan, the Bundeswehr fought as a reliable partner alongside the United States and our allied partners from over 40 countries for an uninterrupted 19 years.

However, with the latest Russian invasion of Ukraine last year, finally the old threat and thus the former core mission of national and collective defence has returned. Consequently, Germany´s defence budget has increased significantly, we enhance our defence capabilities, we bolster deterrence. Together with our partners, we can counter effectively the new threats, just as we did before 1989.

Especially in the Baltic Region, the Bundeswehr took up new responsibilities. The German Air Force, together with our allied partners, regularly secures the Baltic States’ airspace. In addition, Germany has pledged to station permanently a Combat Brigade in Lithuania.

Beyond our commitment in the Baltic region, Germany makes numerous additional military contributions along NATO´s Eastern flank to safeguard alliance territory:

• we participate in NATO´s Enhanced Air Policing South in Romania,

• we provide air defence forces in Slovakia as well as infantry forces for the multinational NATO Battlegroup in Slovakia, and

• we significantly contribute to maritime NATO forces in the North Atlantic, the Baltic Sea, and the Mediterranean.

This engagement is possible, because we were and will remain integrated into NATO´s Command and Force Structure.

Furthermore, together with our allies and partners, we strongly support Ukraine with training, equipment and weapons. As of today, Germany, after the U.S and the EU, is the third-largest contributor in military, financial and humanitarian support to Ukraine.

To strengthen peace and international rule based order, Germany also deploys its forces worldwide including to the Pacific and to the Indian Ocean. In 2024, the German Air Force and Navy, as part of the Indo-Pacific and Pacific Skies Deployments, will be present in the region and participate, among other tasks, in enforcing UN sanctions against the People’s Republic of Korea. We did and we will do this in an open and transparent way. Transparency and openness are, among others, guiding principles for our bilateral military collaborations. To foster transparency, engagement and open dialogue with each other is important and mutually beneficial. Therefore, with the end of the COVID pandemic, rejuvenating last week´s Strategic Dialogue Seminar for Chinese and German Admirals and Generals in person in Hamburg has been a valuable step forward.

In a nutshell: the German Armed Forces act in a transparent way, conduct their missions alongside allies and partners, understand their growing responsibility, refocus on national and collective defence due to Russia´s aggressive invasion and foremost, the Bundeswehr remains a reliable partner, now and in future! Thank you very much!

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