German Navy in the New European Security Environment

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Written by C. Naseer Ahmad

The European security environment is at its most volatile since the Cold War, and much of the friction between NATO and a newly assertive Russia can be found in the maritime domain,” wrote Magnus Nordenman in an Atlantic Council, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, Issue Brief. Keeping the Russia threat in focus, Nordenman discusses the rebalancing towards the Baltic Sea and the North Atlantic that Germany – specifically the German Navy is currently undergoing after more than two decades of tending to crisis management task and maritime security operations in the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Notwithstanding the doubts being sown recently about NATO as a spent force, the organization remains a viable and credible organization to deter aggression and for maintaining the security environment in Europe and around the world. But, challenges remain and NATO’s capabilities need modernization. “In the Baltic Sea, NATO faces a real challenge to the Alliance’s ability to reinforce the Baltic States and to operate at and from sea during a crisis,” wrote Nordenman.

Presenting the role of the German Navy in the Baltic Sea and the North Atlantic, Nordenman argues for “a renewed German focus on bolstering NATO’s ‘cohesion and capacity to act’ and for Berlin’s preparedness to ‘assume responsibility and to lead in order to make joint action possible’.” The issue paper then delves in the current and future capabilities, Sea-Based Air Defense, Anti-Submarine Warfare, Mine Warfare, Command and Control as well as International and regional cooperation.

The Atlantic Council invited Vice Admiral Andreas Krause, Chief Inspector, German Navy to deliver Keynote Remarks at the “Back to the North” seminar on April 6, 2017 at the Washington based think tank. Rear Admiral Ulrich Reineke, Chief, Planning Division of the German Navy discussed the role of the German Navy in the Baltic Sea Region at this seminar.

Following the official remarks, an informative and illuminating panel discussion was moderated by Kathleen J. McInnis, International Security Analyst, Congressional Research Service and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. Ian Brzezinski, Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council joined Nordenman and Vice Admiral Krause in the discussion which highlighted the concept “stronger with allies” as well as the “willingness of the allies to contribute.” Panelists mentioned that “personal relationships matter a lot.

The conference deliberations made several references to the Atlantic Council Issue Brief and they included the “peace dividends” as well as how long has it been since the end of the Cold War and the ensuing ramifications. “Cold War was thirty years ago … there are a new generation and a new mindset,” said one of the panelists.

NATO will not be NATO without the U.S.,” said Vice Admiral Krause who did raise concerns about Russia’s disrespect of international law. “Baltic Sea is a part of the open oceans,” he opined.

Discussing Russian fighters’ airspace incursion into the Scandinavian countries, words of caution were raised about accidental ‘red-on-blue’ collision.

The discussions also included the development of the Baltic Maritime Component Command (BMCC) by Germany in Rostock. BMCC will “consist of roughly one hundred German personnel, and will be able to accept another twenty five multinational staffer during peacetime operations.” Conceptually, BMCC “will be able to control operations in the Baltic Sea Region and beyond” and its structure is considered to be compliant with NATO standards. The role of U.S. Navy is “absolutely indispensable,” per the panelists who argued for an active US engagement in the BMCC and a robust naval dimension to deter aggression in the Baltic Sea.