There is regular public debate among academics, journalists, opinion-formers and CSOs about defence issues and related topics, such as the current corruption scandal within the Federal Ministry of Defence.
There is a great deal of evidence of regular, active public debate about defence issues in Germany. Media attention is generally focussed on current affairs, meaning that topics such as the Defence Policy Guidelines or the Weissbuch (White Paper) are usually only marginal issues (due to the irregular publication of these documents). However, there is a relatively active academic community, which keeps discussions about policy issues alive, especially those regarding the EU and NATO.
Members of the Bundestag, especially leading members of the Defence Committee, are frequently interviewed by the media. When it comes to the executive branch, however, it is almost exclusively the Minister of Defence who participates in public discussions, while the State Secretaries and the Chief of Federal Armed Forces Staff are often not involved. Compared to other large NATO members, Germany has fewer conferences, think tanks and researchers and/or journalists who focus on issues of defence policy. Overall, there is active debate but it is far less institutionalised than in these countries. In particular, there is no evidence of a large number of discussions that are co-organised with independent think tanks or CSOs.
Debates about high priority issues persist over a period of time, as observed in several newspaper articles or other publications, such as academic journal articles, that are available to the public [1,2,3,4,5,6]. In particular, the Spiegel newspaper provides a broad overview of topics related to the German Federal Ministry of Defence , while Die Welt has published a series of articles focussing specifically on the ‘Berateraffäre’ corruption scandal within the Federal Ministry of Defence .
The government engages in regular debate with academia, opinion-formers and CSOs about defence issues in collaborative ways and co-organises discussions with independent think tanks and civil society organisations, as well as through joint media briefings. The Federal Ministry of Defence provides a portal where users can access current information, press releases and in-depth information on selected topics. For example, if journalists are looking for the appropriate point of contact to answer questions on the Bundeswehr, defence policy issues or Federal Ministry of Defence activities, they can find the required information by navigating to a specific homepage . Furthermore, the Federal Ministry of Defence has several spokespeople who are responsible for the various subject areas relating to defence policy and the armed forces.
The Federal Ministry of Defence also meets with representatives of the defence industry for the ‘Strategic Industrial Dialogue’. This form of cooperation is a further development of the ‘Structured Dialogue’, which was previously held with the industry as part of the Armament Agenda. The Federal Ministry of Defence website states: ‘In order to improve the transparency, modernisation and optimisation of the Bundeswehr’s procurement projects, the Ministry of Defence and the BDSV Federal Association of the German Security and Defence Industry agreed at the end of 2014 to meet regularly for top-level and specialist discussions. Since then, issues such as contracting, project management in procurement, operational readiness, sustainability and innovation have been discussed in various expert panels. Concrete recommendations have been developed for modern, optimised and transparent processes in the field of defence, for example, a common risk management policy, which should help the Bundeswehr and the defence industry to plan time frames and budgets for large projects more reliably than before. The Structured Dialogue, which was part of the Armament Agenda, aimed to streamline the entire armaments industry and provide the armed forces with the equipment they needed in the best possible manner with regard to time frame, performance and cost. The purpose of this dialogue was to establish mutual understanding and implement quick and concrete measures in the arms industry’ .
Another example is the conference on international humanitarian law in Ettlingen, which is co-organised by the German Red Cross (General Secretariat and DRK regional association Baden-Württemberg)  and the BMVg, with support from the central training facility for the administration of justice of the Bundeswehr. The purpose of this annual conference is to provide the members of the judiciary of the Bundeswehr, the Convention Commissioner of the German Red Cross, international law experts and interested guests with a conference and a forum to discuss current international law developments. In addition, the legal department of the BMVg and the lawyers of the Bundeswehr, especially in the field of justice administration, maintain extensive contact and professional exchange with scientific and non-governmental organisations. Some important partners in this context are (though this list is not exhaustive) the German Red Cross, as well as its national associations, and the German Society for Military Law and International Humanitarian Law, in which many lawyers from the Bundeswehr meet with representatives of academia and other legal professions. Furthermore, the BMVg is also a member of the international humanitarian law committee. This provides a framework for discussions and joint events on the legal aspects of security and defence policy. In addition, lawyers regularly attend events organised by institutions outside the Bundeswehr (e.g., the German Judicial Academy, the Federal Academy for Security Policy, universities) as lecturers. For members of the civil justice system, the Bundeswehr (Inner Leadership Centre) also organises its own information events on issues related to military law.
Further exchange with civil society takes place in the form of the internships and trainee positions offered by the legal departments of the BMVg and the Bundeswehr to young lawyers, who then gain an insight into legal work in the military field. The BMVg also maintains its own colleges and universities, as well as an education centre, which are all well connected with academics and researchers outside of the BMVg’s departments. There are regional, national and international partnerships focussing on various specialist areas. The BMVg engages in scientific and public debate on security issues with the Center for Military History and Social Sciences. The scientific research work carried out there directly contributes to the information addressed in the debate.
The Bundeswehr also has its own think tank in the form of the German Institute for Defence and Strategic Studies (GIDS). The GIDS examines problems and phenomena that are decisive for Germany’s security policy strategy and thus creates the basis for advising decision-makers in the Bundeswehr and the Federal Government. The GIDS has a growing international scientific network and, at the same time, is building up a well-organised system of knowledge management that aims to make studies, theses and other results of the research and teaching in the GIDS accessible to science and the public.
Engagement in European policy:
The Department of Politics regularly participates in discussions about security and defence policy issues relating to the Common Security and Defence Policy of the European Union (CSDP), at the level of both head of unit and spokesperson. This includes participation in events organised by CSOs, universities and think tanks, such as the German Society for Foreign Policy, the Science and Politics Foundation, the European Council on Foreign Relations, the German Atlantic Society, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and many more. Plans are currently underway for different event formats, which may be organised together or through think tanks and foundations. Due to the current planning status, detailed information cannot yet be provided.
Engagement in dialogue with society:
The Department of Politics maintains contact with a wide range of academics, independent think tanks and CSOs and conducts ‘security policy dialogues’ in various forms. In addition to classic security policy topics, these dialogues also address current issues that relate to aspects of security policy, such as the topic of digitisation and ethical questions with regard to military use of automated weapon systems. Notable partners for these dialogue events include the Bertelsmann Foundation, the Federation of German Industries (BDI), some of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), etc. The Department of Politics is also the point of contact for the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and is involved in various AJC seminar events. It also engages in regular exchanges with the Catholic and Protestant churches.
The Department of Politics processes the BMVg’s membership of the Board of Trustees of the German Foundation for Peace Research (DSF) and the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship. In addition, the annual peace report is presented to and discussed with various peace research institutes each year.
Engagement in arms control policy:
The BMVg regularly participates in events, exchanges and discussions on arms control and non-proliferation, including those involving academics and civil society organisations. The debates address current topics from the entire spectrum of arms control and non-proliferation issues. It would not be reasonable to name all of these events. However, in general, they include both events organised by the BMVg and external events organised by other departments, in particular, the Federal Foreign Office and the groups of people or institutes listed above, such as BAKS (BAKS is an independent service that, in organisational terms, belongs to the business area of the BMVg) , the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES).
Engagement within the United Nations:
Members of the Department of Politics take part in UN-related events organised by think tanks, academic institutions and CSOs as guests and, in rare cases, also as speakers. The organisers of these events include the German Society for Foreign Policy (DGAP), the German Society for the United Nations, the Hertie School Berlin, the Center for International Peace Operations and the International Peace Institute.
There are also collaborative events held with external researchers as part of study projects. In 2019, the Politics Department held three workshops for the specialist participants (Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University, Leiden University, Global Governance Institute) in connection with the BMVg’s own study project entitled ‘Implementing the concept for protecting the civilian population in UN peacekeeping missions’ (workshop details: 8 November 2019, Washington DC; 12 November 2019, New York; 12-13 December 2019, Berlin).
Engagement with general strategic topics/individual partnerships:
As part of its security policy communication and networked action, and also for the purposes of increasing strategic capability, the Department of Politics maintains regular exchanges with civil society actors, including think tanks and scientific institutions.
The central, interlinked measures of the ‘overall strategy development system’ have been systematically launched since 2017: the ‘Strategy and Foresight’ network, the core of the overall system, with regular meetings involving representatives from business, science and civil society on topics of strategic relevance; the pilot project METIS at the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Munich (a pioneer in strategic studies in Germany, which advises the Department of Politics and supports the ‘Strategy and Foresight’ network); the partnership with the Interdisciplinary Research Network Maritime Security (iFMS) at the University of the Federal Armed Forces Hamburg; the study project on ‘Early Crisis Detection through Literature Evaluation’, headed by Prof. Dr. Jürgen Wertheimer at the University of Tübingen.
In addition, the BMVg is currently running a three-part series of (project-financed) events entitled ‘Projecting Stability’ with the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). A specialist conference was held in April 2019, followed by a round table in November 2019. The final round table is scheduled for May 2020. There is also a similar collaborative project (a specially funded three-part series of events) with the ‘Liberal Modern’ institute on the subject of ‘New system competition – Russia, China and the West’. Two round tables (on Russia and China) were held in June and September 2018, and the final specialist conference will be held in March 2020 at the BMVg.
The Department of Politics regularly actively participates in the meetings and events of the advisory board ‘Civilian Crisis Prevention and Peacebuilding’, which includes representatives of non-governmental organisations, religious communities and science. This board advises the ministries on fundamental issues of conflict analysis and early warning of crises, as well as on the further development of approaches and instruments.
Collaborative relationships also exist in subordinate areas:
The George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies (GCMC) conducts regular and numerous collaborative events with various organisations such as the MSC GmbH, the Hanns Seidel Foundation and many more. The same applies to the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College and the Federal Academy for Security Policy (BAKS), which maintain and organise regular exchanges and forms of cooperation with numerous actors in the security policy community.
Joint press conferences have not and will not be held with the organisations mentioned .