Transatlantic Relations in Action: US-German Cooperation in Afghanistan


Intro: 0:01
Welcome to the podcast of the German American conference, 2021, a student-run conference at the Harvard Kennedy school. In this podcast, we will talk about the transatlantic relationship between Germany and the U.S.with guests from both sides of the Atlantic. We will discuss the future of problem-solving. And here is your host Anne McElvoy.

Anne McElvoy: 0:28 Hello, and welcome to the first in a series of podcasts we're bringing to you from the German American Conference 2021. And this year's overarching theme for the event and our podcast discussion, which we hope will whet your appetite for that event, is the future of problem-solving. We're going to start our tour by looking at areas of combined German and American interest and where these combine in a turbulent fast-changing, and often risky world, and that couldn't be anywhere more relevant with deeper implications for global security and humanitarian outcomes than one of the world's most unstable and pressurized countries. Yes, Afghanistan. In the wake of the U.S. Withdrawal and the Taliban takeover, where do those tumultuous events leave U.S. Allies in the mission and particularly Germany, which joined the intervention to keep the Taliban out of power back in 2003. The country's only large-scale foreign military support mission after Bosnia. So today I will be in conversation with two guests who can throw light on this via their knowledge and insights into the story. Dr. Claudia Major is head of the International Security Division at the German Institute for international and security affairs in Berlin. She's also a member of the advisory board on civilian protection for the German foreign office. And she will be joined by Dr. Magdalena Kirchner, country director for Afghanistan at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, and a strong advocate for transatlantic relations. Magdalena. I'm going to start with you because I know that you've been following events on the ground closely, and then will perhaps take a view more broadly of what it means with Claudia. But do give us a brief overview if you could, of why the U.S. Invaded Afghanistan 20 years ago, and why Germany joined in?

Dr. Magdalena Kirchner: 2:21
Well, I think the main reason, and thank you, first of all, for having me today, is why the U.S. invaded Afghanistan 20 years ago is very closely connected to 9/11. The attacks from the world trade center and the Pentagon were a shock to the U.S. They felt attacked, they were attacked, and there was a need, I think for revenge or retaliation. And Afghanistan had been on the map for the U.S. Forces for a while. Now, it was the country that hosted Osama bin Laden, the head of Al-Qaeda, the network that was responsible for the attacks. So it started out as a retaliation mission but then kicked off the war and terror, and Germany felt the need to express solidarity. It was the first time that a NATO member has called for article five, which encourages all other NATO members to stand by it. And this was, I think, how the story of the Afghanistan war started and we have well seen the end of it in the past days.

Anne McElvoy: 3:22
And could you walk us through the German American cooperation, how that played out in practice, quite a high hurdle, usually for Germany to join these American led interventions, as we know, Germany stayed out of the Iraq crisis, what was different this time?

Dr. Magdalena Kirchner: 3:40
Well, I think the Afghanistan crisis was a bit before the Iraq war, obviously, but it came a bit as a shock. There was a new government, the first red-green government under chancellor Schröder, and especially the Greens came into power with the foreign policy platform of pacifism. So the idea of sending German soldiers abroad was something really new and not something that went lightly. Chancellor Schröder actually had to ask for a vote of confidence in the parliament to give the permission. And I think the second point that made the Germans and the German public convinced that this war could be a good war and not something that they would see as negative. What's the connection of the war and terror with the idea of building peace and stability in Afghanistan. So it also, at the same time, became a war on poverty, and, like a stabilizing mission, which was very keen, I think until this day for the German public to continue to support this war.

Anne McElvoy: 4:44
And as we know, it didn't quite work out like that. I'm going to flip over to Claudia in just a moment and see what she makes of the events and the wider implications. But last thought from you, perhaps Magdalena on this point, how has this withdrawal worked in terms of that cooperation? Have German and American officials still been working together in what looks from the outside, like a pretty chaotic route and a very fast retreat out of Kabul?

Dr. Magdalena Kirchner: 5:13
Yes, indeed. I think the mantra of the German engagement in the past years was always to say in together, out together. A) because the political narrative came from the U.S. Engagement, there was no real incentive for Germany to go to Afghanistan, but the U.S.mission. But it also demonstrated the dependency that Germany felt both militarily. We had the situation that the U.S., because of their dominance and the mission, was the critical enabler for the forces. So it would not be possible just from a logistical perspective for the German armed forces to stay there. And we have seen in the past weeks that this does not only go for the military parts, also the capacity very basic for the German embassy to evacuate itself was dependent on the U.S. Cooperating - the U.S. Informing allies. And there was a lot of hope that this would have been better under president Biden, but this did not take place. And we've seen very vividly how dependent Germany was on the decisions that the U.S. Government took regarding Afghanistan

Anne McElvoy: 6:21
Relatively. How chaotic was the situation at the German embassy?

Dr. Magdalena Kirchner: 6:25
I mean, we hear reports coming out. We know that there were discussions about evacuation plans. I would say officials were very aware that Germany would not be able to evacuate its embassy without support. And then things developed rather quickly because the news of the U.S. Embassy evacuating came in only on Friday and on Sunday, Kabul fell. So this was developing rather quickly, and even the evacuation of citizens and beyond citizens was certainly not easy. Germans are, for instance, not obligated when they live in Afghanistan to register. So just to find out who you have to evacuate, how to reach out to these people, how to get everybody on the planes in such a chaotic situation, I think this is something that was very difficult to even prepare for. But I think we can certainly say that the German government was not prepared for such a scenario.

Anne McElvoy: 7:25
Claudia Major, give us a bit of a broader take on these events, and what they mean for transatlantic cooperation insecurity policy. You might say, this has not obviously been the best advertisement for that. But do you think it is still assigned in some ways of being together out together and maybe holds together even in this rather dreadful situation on the ground in Afghanistan?

Dr. Claudia Major: 7:51
I want to come back to one point Magdalena made, and that's the importance of Afghanistan for Germany. And the thing we cannot underestimate the importance of that operation for both the military and the civilian, and by this I mean the political developmental aid, humanitarian aid and all those communities. It was 20 years that really have shaped the armed forces. That's one of the biggest operations, a very long one, and an operation that Germany never had before. So it really shaped a generation in the armed forces. That also means that those are now kind of thinking about the future of the Bundeswehr, all those, they all went to Afghanistan and we should not underestimate it. There were other operations, for example, German soldiers are deployed in Mali, they are in UNIFIL and Lebanon, but Afghanistan really was the element or the operation that changed the armed force. It's really important to understand because it's not the same for other countries. The second is that Germany very early on, tried to bring its ideas in. And its idea was to say, it's not only military, but it's building up infrastructure: the whole civilian dimension, hospitals, the training of teachers, police personnel, security personnel. So there was the idea of really, we bringing these two dimensions, civilian and military together, and that again, shaped a whole generation of political decision makers, but also in development aid, cooperation, infrastructure, and all that. So I think it's not to underestimate how much Afghanistan has shaped the thinking in Germany. If I look at the transatlantic relationship to a certain extent, obviously there was a big deception in Germany. If you look at the last days, the dramatic days in August of the lack of coordination, there was also a certain anger in Germany or rather all European countries, not only about the U.S., but about their own European inability on the political sphere, because Europeans were not really keen to stay there either. That's part of the truth. So political inability, or lack of interest and military inability. So we would not have been able as Europeans in military terms to do something on our own without the Americans. The interesting bit is, this is not new. All those lessons, we had the chance to learn them in the past, and we did it as Europeans. So the lack of military capabilities, Europeans experienced that already in the Balkans in the 1990s, in Libya in 2011 in Syria and 2019. So that's nothing new. The real question is actually, what do we learn from that as Europeans? And what does it mean on the international scene? Last sentence on that, if you look at the international map, where we have a crisis and who is engaged in international crises, you can see that the U.S is no longer very much committed. France is not very much committed somewhere in the world. Neither is the UK. Who is filling the gap? And that's mainly China and Russia. But if China and Russia put the framework for stabilization, for nation building, for development, they put their own standards. And in terms of freedom, rights, and all that, these are not the same that we will.

Anne McElvoy: 11:07
We might delve into that in a bit more depth in just a moment. If I could just come back, perhaps Magdalena to the situation on the ground as you've been following it, there is talk of tensions. I certainly hear that speaking to you from London, from senior military figures here, given that the allies received relatively late knowledge of the very rapid pull-out. Also, I felt not very well reflected in president Biden's speech was a fact that just under half of the fatal casualties had been suffered in Afghanistan by the allies, as well as of course the American death toll. So do you feel that that has led to some bad feeling, and what were the flashpoints as this was unfolding?

Dr. Magdalena Kirchner: 11:54
I think from the European point of view, Claudia has, I think, described the emotions that, I mean, from my perspective, we were busy with evacuating our staff and trying to do something to the situation on the ground. But of course we heard the growl from Berlin to say so, and a lot of negative emotions since Joe Biden announced the withdrawal. Whereas until then, the narrative was, it will not be unconditional, and we have time. And then, he just pulled the plug without informing everyone. And as I said, I felt people said we would have expected this from Trump. But when Biden came in, there was kind of a false perception that this would all become better. And the Americans would basically listen to us, and this had not happened. And so I think since April 14th, when Joe Biden made that announcement, it was already a kind of bitterness because the inability, that Claudia also described, of the Europeans to push back or stay longer, if they want and do their own thing is also quite obvious to them, of course, also because of their own unwillingness to build the capabilities. And I think what, for me, it's quite striking when you look back at the 20 years that I think through the American perspective, this was always America's war. It was a war the Americans decided to lead and to have, they were the dominant power. There was hardly any real recognition of other's interests. We also saw a lot of painful discussions, that we also have in burden sharing and defense spending. So the Germans got the recognition that with all their caveats, not being able or willing to actually fight, the Germans made commitments that they wanted to train the police but never actually started training the police. So I think from the American point of view, they didn't feel the need to consult allies. A lot of allies were consulted to give NATO a good reputation and have a good feeling, but not because there was actually a necessity. I think that was the lesson for the Americans from the first years in the war, that the Europeans were there to support and had their own interests and they wouldn't do much damage, but I think they were not considered. And I think the fact that Joe Biden makes this so bluntly, I mean, it is, I think you're absolutely right, like not mentioning the casualties of other countries who were there to support the U.S.mission to not apologize or show like a kind of remorse that the way the Americans left created a lot of problems for Europe. And we didn't even start to talk about migration and like problems that were more European than Americans to say, but I mean, that's the same disregard that also Afghan allies feel because their casualties and sacrifices are not so very acknowledged. And I think for the U.S. the bitter pill is that it becomes really clear that Afghanistan or the end of the Afghanistan mission is a domestic political project of the Biden administration. And he speaks to the American people and whatever allies' feelings are in the way. I think this is a second priority, and the healing will probably be done in other parts of the world.

Anne McElvoy: 15:03
Claudia, some experts on this scenario have been concluding that the German engagement was characterized by a too strong dependence on the American presence in the country. You could say the proof of that pudding has been observed in eating because America led the withdrawal at speed. And exactly as Magdalena was pointing us to didn't obviously feel at that point that it needed to act as part of an Alliance. It was basically acting fairly single-handedly, what's your view on that? And what are the implications of that for future scenarios that might develop in this unpredictable world we're in?

Dr. Claudia Major: 15:44
This dependency on the not really new as Magdalena said, it has been visible since the beginning. I mean, there was a strong influence in actually starting, it was a U.S. Operation, as you said we went there because of the U.S. .Germany To a large extent, went there out of solidarity with this most important partner, because article five of NATO was activated. The article, that says, if one is attacked, the others come to help. That was the starting point. We have to remember that. So it's very clear since the beginning, a strong U.S. Influence also the way the probation was designed and then a clear dependency upon the U.S. Military means and the political impact. So this dependency was, was very clear from the beginning, as I said, Germany tried to bring in some ideas like adding the civilian dimension, but this U.S. Primacy, I would say was never really challenged, consciously or willingly challenged. There was always a little bit of moaning. Like we don't like the way they're doing this and it's not really convincing and we would do it differently. But to be honest, if you want to have a say in the debate, you have to bring something to the table, and this is what the Europeans and the Germans were not really willing to do for a very long time. Germany was struggling to make the case at home why we are in Afghanistan, out of solidarity with America. Yes, but is there a security reason behind that can relate? That's a complicated story. Also how Germany explained the reasons why we are in Afghanistan and a very late stage defense minister said our security is defended at the Hindu Kush, but I think that was kind of 10 years after the operation started. So that was a huge learning process also for Germany to actually find its way in security policy and to somehow define interests, also security interests. So I think that was a very long and to a large extent, very painful learning process for German security and defense thinking.

Anne McElvoy: 17:38
And Magdalena, do you share that view that this was, as you just heard from Claudia a long and painful process, I suppose things do evolve the way that the UK was involved in interventions at the high point of liberal intervention under Tony Blair was rather different to a sort of we're in it, we better see it through gritted teeth, British approach. In recent years, I suppose both approaches do have the virtues or sometimes are just needed in the moment, but what do you make of the impact on Germany thinking broadly about getting involved in something that she is a long way away, where the impact on security is at the very least questionable, what's your own feeling?

Dr. Magdalena Kirchner: 18:23
I mean, just when Claudia also gave the right example, I also remember there was the acronym for, for ICAF, for the "International Stabilization and Assistance Force" was "I saw Americans fighting". And of course also there was a lot of talk. And I think in the last year or two, when there were negotiations with the Taliban, there were of course differences in the approach between the Europeans and the Americans. And you can see that there was something, a unique maybe European policy approach, but we come back to what Claudia said when it became obvious that for instance, the financial support of the U.S. Would decline, also then Europe was not really ready to close the gap. So I think this, I wouldn't call it free writing, but it's certainly a bandwagoning that I think was consequential until the end, because Claudia also said Germany, but also wider Europe never developed their own narrative or own strategy. It was until the end dominated by the idea, we need this mission because it's so important to the Alliance and the threat that if the mission ends and fails, this would also reflect on our ability. And I think that brings me a bit to your question and the question, what did we learn, or what do we actually have learned? Because as Claudia said, this goes on for 20 years and a lot of the current missions, the Bundeswehr is already now engaged, started afterwards. And Afghanistan had actually the influence on that pretty quickly afterwards. I think policymakers realized that this is too big to chew so already when we talked about the counter dash operations in Iraq, but also Mali, at least to my reading as an outsider, I feel you have already this lesson that always shouldn't do too much, like maybe not so much in democracy, not so much on like education and women's rights and values. Let's focus on training missions in smaller issues. I think that is one of the lessons, the other one, and I think Claudia can say more on that regarding Mali, I think one reflex that Germany still has is we see these operations also through the eyes of others. We want to show our solidarity, but we know that it's not enough to send a friendly letter. We are aware of our dependency on other allies. So we go into this mission as a sign of support and that kind of prevents at least the Germans from developing their own strategy. And I don't know if the failure or Afghanistan is actually the cold shower that would encourage a more independent thinking, or whether this is like the eternal truth of German security policy that we, wherever we go, we go in together. And that creates the problem.

Anne McElvoy: 21:13
Or indeed go there and say, I never really wanted to go here anyway, but that does bring us to that interesting question of what strategic autonomy could look like for a country in Germany's position. And of course, with Germany's history in the last century, Claudia, do you like the idea of strategic autonomy or do you think it throws up the kind of questions that, you know, Magdalena was surfacing there about what would that really mean other than we're not going to do what we did before on the coattails of America.

Dr. Claudia Major: 21:46
I like the idea very much of strategic autonomy or European sovereignty, but I actually avoid using the word because it has become really toxic, particularly in the transatlantic context, because it has so often been misunderstood as a French plot, as isolationism, as independence from the U.S., which it is not. So the first thing I would really underline, it's not about strategic autonomy or as I would say, capacity to act for a country that's nonsense because no European country can address any defense problem from terrorism to collective defense, to cyber, to technology on its own. So if you talk about capacity to act, it's a European capacity to act off the European countries. And again, I talk about the European countries because I think it's really important to have the Brits on board and Norway and other countries. So it's not about institutional beauties, between NATO or the EU, it's about European countries together being able actually to define what their priorities are and have the capabilities, civilian political economic military, to implement it. So that might sound very easy, but it's actually, if you can kind of put it in some sentences is to say, are we Europeans able to shape the international or regional order and stability from which we as Europeans benefit so greatly with economic exchanges, financial flows and all those, we benefit from a stable order. What do we actually do to maintain it? What we have built in Europe is a European union, a fascinating political entity, but we are not able to defend it in the moment, militarily speaking, without our American allies, shouldn't we have the ambition to be able to defend what we have built? So strategic autonomy or capacity to act is actually the question, whether Europe wants to be a rule maker to somehow, so define how we do this technology to define how we deal with fragile states, or do we want to be a rule taker and subordinate to rules made by others, Russia, China, but also the that's, that's the question. What do we actually want to do in our environment? Do we have a European voice? And I think this is getting even more important, particularly in the area of security, because we have a return of military power countries like Russia and China who don't shy away from using military tools. They have a comeback of nuclear issues, but also because we see the shift in U.S. priorities, Europe is no longer a U.S. Priority. The U.S.priority is a systemic competition with China. So Europe to a large extent has this problem that is soft. And the third point is that Europeans benefit so greatly from a liberal order, which is increasingly under pressure by Russia and China. So how are we going to somehow survive in that changing order? And with those three elements, power politics is back. The shifting away. And the global order is under pressure. This should make us Europeans really think about how we are going to behave, what we want to be and what role we want to play. And as I said earlier, only if you can bring something to the table, you can speak at the table and you will be listened to at the table.

Anne McElvoy: 25:00
Magdalena, let's put this in the political context. Obviously, we're looking into a very exciting election and a lot of people perhaps who are going to cast their votes, are we thinking well, good riddance to all of this. I didn't really ever particularly want to see Germany involved in military intervention. A lot of those people will, as it happens, not only at all by any means, but a lot of them will be on the left of, of sending you with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung which was of course, named after a founder of the social democratic party in Germany, the first president of Germany, indeed in the Weimar Republic, if, and who knows, but if it looks like at the moment, in the opinion polls, the SPD does end up taking power in Germany. How do you see the challenge of international military engagement for a party, which has always heard a strong internationalist outlook but was also very split. And it's probably more split these days than ever it was between those who believe ultimately in NATO and in bigger commitment to NATO and in the possibility of joining in military corporations, which others think is simply foolish and an anathema, and they think they've been proved. Right?

Dr. Magdalena Kirchner: 26:09
Hmm. That's a good question. I mean, maybe coming back to 20 years ago, I think it was exactly the split that you described that led to the, well, maybe not overwhelming. I mean, I would, in hindsight say if we had done more of the development and less of the war, Afghanistan would be in a better place these days, but that also pushed the SPD leadership to say, we cannot just go to war. Like Social Democrats just don't go just to a war. There has to be something, a greater cause. And I think that has not changed much. We have seen in the last 20 years, SPD, whether in opposition or in government, have supported the mission, not knowing, as Claudia and I established, what they actually wanted in Afghanistan. So there is the sense of a transatlantic solidarity. There is, of course, an awareness that the U.S. is needed, that NATO is a good thing. Of course, I think sometimes the question is how long would the solidarity with NATO last, when it's not for free anymore? And I think that's, of course, the big question. I think there is still a strong commitment to international peace that will also lead to pragmatic solutions. I think SPD would not drift completely to the left, but I think there will be more scrutiny. I think after Afghanistan, there will be more questions, because for a lot of parliamentarians, the war was older than they're actually present in the parliament. Of course there are, I think on what else Claudia has said, like, how would this, what do you have to bring to the table? Do you bring money? Do you bring diplomatic leverage or do you bring armed drones? I think this is where the SPD is certainly a bit divided or strongly divided because they want to be at the same time, seem responsible, but also are hesitant to, if I can call it like this, to make the commitment. So I think that discussion will not end if they are in the chancellery as they also didn't end when they were in the foreign ministry, but I think it reflects, I would say very accurately, the German public. So it's not that this being torn is something new. Everybody wants to have responsibility, but there is a hesitancy to spell out what that actually would be.

Anne McElvoy: 28:26
Do you get any sense of where Olaf Scholz, the "Kanzlerkandidat" is on these questions. It hasn't been in his bailiwick. You've been the finance guy. That's probably been quite useful to him. He hasn't had to deliberate publicly on this, but my goodness, if he became chancellor, it's going to come at him very quickly. So what do you make of his temperament on these questions, Magdalena and then over to Claudia?

Dr. Magdalena Kirchner: 28:47
I think so far, I mean, I say like observing an election campaign from abroad is a bit different, but he has been hesitant on these issues of foreign insecurity policies - certainly not a platform where he feels comfortable in, or once he feels that he can make a lot of points. I think he's aware of how delicate the dance is that the SPD is doing there in Afghanistan. I think he didn't really say anything until we had to evacuate people when he was also supportive of the resettlement of refugees. But yeah, this is not his background, which is different from the green chancellor candidate who feels, I think, more secure and thriving in these questions. But I think it depends on who will be in his team, and who will be the coalition partner.

Anne McElvoy: 29:35
Very importantly. And Claudia, I got the sense from your list that you laid out, just before Magdalena came back in there, that you sort of felt there was a lot of work to be done and a lot of decisions to be made by Germany. Wasn't as simple as what we've got out of Afghanistan that didn't quite work out. Thanks and good night. But surely when you say we have to bring something to the table and you have to discuss what it is, isn't the obvious thing you need to bring is just money really, isn't it because of that proportion of defense spending on GDP, which has been frustrating NATO and the White House and some of your nearby allies in Europe, here in Britain and beyond for a number of years, the check has been in the post for a long time, but it's still a bit of a small check, isn't it?

Dr. Claudia Major: 30:18
Yes and no. Maybe a little word on the German political setting because to a certain extent, and that is good news and bad news at the same time, there will almost certainly be no revolution in German security defense policy. We will have a major political change because Angela Merkel is stepping down after 16 years. So there'll be a new chancellor. We will have a lot of new parliamentarians and they brought for the first half of what the first we haven't had for a long time a three party coalition. So there will be political change, but there will not be much change in foreign security and defense policy because those three parties, we don't know which one will end up finally in the government, they will have to find a compromise on their foreign security policy positions if one really likes nuclear deterrence, but the other one really hates nuclear determines they still need to find an agreement.

Anne McElvoy: 31:10
That would be really tricky.

Dr. Claudia Major: 31:11
That's a really interesting one because that's what applies actually to the Greens and the Conservatives. So they have to find an agreement amongst three parties to sign the coalition treaty. And then once the three parties are in power, if you want to deliver foreign security and defense policy, you need the foreign ministry, the defense ministry, the economics interior development corporation. They all will be run by different political parties and they all have to agree. So that means we will have the biggest common denominator, but that will not be a revolution. So get ready for high continuity and German foreign defense policy spending. Honestly, we get so much attention to the military, to the 2% debate. And I don't think it's the most pressing one. Yes, there is an issue because Germany has signed the 2% goal agreed in 2014 in NATO that all countries want to increase defense spending and work towards 2% in 2024, Germany will not reach it. That's for sure. If you look at the financial planning it will go up, but it will go down next year. And we are at about 1.4%. But what I also want to say is that German defense spending has increased considerably after the annexation of Crimea and the war on Donbass, which was a real wake up call for German defense policy. We were at about 33 billion Euros in 2013. German defense spending is almost at 50 billion now. So that's a considerable increase, but as I said, the 2% goal is a, it's a bizarre one because it measures mainly what you spent on defense, but it doesn't really measure what you get out in terms of capacity to act in terms of tanks and planes and, and readiness, and the more pressing problem for German defense. So if it's about Germany, adding to European defense is different. That's an example of the rec procurement system. So if you want to modernize the German armed forces, you are actually confronted with an overregulated outdated system that really hinders you from spending your money effectively. So we really have to transform our procurement system. Our armed forces have really known readiness because after decades of underinvestment, poor management, lack of attention, they are really in a poor state. And you don't change that overnight within two or three years. So readiness procurement system, lack of public support and little interest in defense. So how do you actually get defense on the table and people interested in it, and the more fundamental issue is to understand defense as a power resource. If you look at German politics, indeed there's little acknowledgement that military power has again become a key part of the global power equation. So if you want to have a say in the global balance of power, if you want to deal with systemic competition with China, if you want to have a place at the table, you have to have the military card ready next to your diplomatic and economic tools. And these are the kind of basic things that would need to change in the German defense system. You can obviously add that we have to discuss arms exports and interventions and nuclear issues and drones and all that, but these are not the most pressing one. The most pressing one is Germany having a functioning defense system because Germany agreed to cooperate with many smaller countries. It integrated forces with the Netherlands and closely cooperated with Hungarians. And that means if Germany is strong, European defense will be strong. It also means if Germany is weak because we don't have a functioning army, we don't spend enough, we don't invest enough. Then Europe will be weak because all the other countries that closely cooperate with Germany were weak. That's why Germany is key, but the spending is important, but not the most important one.

Anne McElvoy: 34:58
Do you agree with that, Magdalena, from your perspective? I think it's a very good challenge by the way. And I think capacity and ability to lift military speakers is perhaps much more important than we often recognize in the debate, particularly the way it's fought out politically in Europe, but some people see it differently and see the money is in some ways, so symbolic as to be decisive.

Dr. Magdalena Kirchner: 35:22
I agree with nearly everything that Claudia said, but I think what I was wondering during your input was whether having these things at hand or that there is a case for the Europeans to say, here is something where we lost, because we didn't have that military. If you think about Ukraine, is there really a realistic scenario that Europe would have used military force to help out Ukraine? Whether the people say, well, we know having more of a military, it could be nice, but we're also aware that there are interdependencies between the U.S. and China and so would we want to deter them. But do you think the will to fight will actually come with the capabilities or is it the other way around? So I think that is my question. When I look mean from the outside on like the Berlin political establishment, whether there is an awareness and understanding that they would need more to be at the table and would that have to be militarily. And could you make a case to say in this crisis, if we had a stronger military leverage, we would have reached our goals or is it not the opposite? That is our government has a strategy to buy itself out of this crisis, maybe to prevent having to have more military because you also raised the point of the public support, but because so far in Germany and Europe wasn't proven wrong because there was no crisis that they actually saw as a military crisis. And not as a political one.

Dr. Claudia Major: 36:57
Obviously you need both. You need the political will to actually take a risk and to commit, and you need the military political civilian, other capabilities to support that. And if you just look very bluntly at the military capabilities, Europe has enormous shortfalls in enablers, the eyes and the ears of an operation. We are more or less deaf and blind without the U.S. Strategic lift intelligence awareness, all that are real shortfalls in Europe. I think that the counterfactual question, you know, what would we have done? That's a very difficult one, but you could turn it around differently. You could remember the Libya operation where Europeans were running out of ammunition very quickly. And the Americans were there to save them. You could think about Syria 2019, where the Americans decided, under Trump without much coordination, to leave. And even the Brits and the French were not able to stay there. You could have a look at the American support for France in the Sahel, where also America is supporting with intelligence and surveillance. So, I agree. We need both. We need the political commitment, the will, we need the military capabilities. We need to think beyond the military because military is changing. And if you look at how you can actually coerce a country in the moment, how you can put pressure on a country, it's not only military, you can do it with economic pressure. You can do it with cyber. So actually defense is moving out of the military more to the civilian, which makes it far more complicated, but also opens the door for the Europeans because this is where Europeans are better than non-military. This is where the European Commission comes in with regulation, with technology things and all that. So it's on the one hand more complex, but also maybe a bit more for the Europeans. But I think the question of: "are we actually winning to get engaged?", is a crucial one, but I would also add that if you act, you take risks, but if you don't act, not acting also has consequences. And to put it in a very blunt way, think of Ruanda, think of Srebrenica and think of Syria. So whatever you do, you decide to act, you have consequences. And if you don't act, you have to live with the consequences of not having done something. Also, it doesn't make it easier.

Anne McElvoy: 39:12
Certainly not, no easy ways through this one, but we did embark on a podcast series about problem solving. And I think we started with a very large scale one indeed with salients, for many decades to come. I suppose as we come to the end, I'd like to ask you both to lean back a bit and look at the Afghanistan crisis, particularly the way the U.S.handled the end of that mission. That sense of trust being put into question in international relationships and the NATO Alliance. And I'd like you to share thoughts about how you think it will affect the German American relationship in the future: hopes, fears, forcible fixes. Problem-Solving, it's a tough old game. Problem-Solving, isn't it? Magdalena.

Dr. Magdalena Kirchner: 39:57
I'm leaning back, but also because by the end of Claudia's intervention, I actually thought about Afghanistan again and what the lesson would be because she said defense is moving out of the military, and that actually would support the argument that what you have to bring on the table might not necessarily be the big guns, but it could also be the big checks. And just before we started the recording, the podcast, the Taliban have announced their government, which looks like the opposite of what Europeans and also Americans had hoped for as a government that they could engage with. They basically retook the power. But at the same time, the military approach to make the Taliban do what we want. If I can say like this has been burned. So now there is talk about preventing withholding economic aid sanctions. And these like civilian tools of coercion will be the next step or dominate the next maybe decade or more of our engagement there. So the question would be how maybe the discussion on European defense will actually recover from being burnt in Afghanistan. I think of the German American friendship and relation, I said it in the beginning, I think there were a lot of hurt feelings. There was a lot of wishful thinking to be honest on the German side of whether Joe Biden wants to be an American president or do the bidding of the Europeans. I think there is more of a soberness, but I think the main, and that is of course, the bitterness for the Afghan people, the main theaters of German American cooperation are, do not include Afghanistan. It is China, it is Russia. There are like climate change, other issues that are seen as more urgent and where there is I think, more room for a corporation. So I would assume that in the next year or two, there has to be cooperation on resettlement of refugees. I think the U.S. Diplomatic efforts will be necessary because as Claudia also said Europe doesn't have the context, the intelligence in that part of the world. But I think there will not be a lasting damage for the relationship because there is a joint conclusion that the relationship has to move on, to survive and we'll move to other areas. So I'm for this conference, I'm quite positive that the relationship will survive this

Anne McElvoy: 42:18
Claudia. I'm hoping your leaning back view of what lies ahead might also lean forward into China and Russia, because you did mention those. In fact, you both did along the way. And I think the sense that we got perhaps from both of you, that there was a danger here in a vacuum that was being filled by less scrupulous actors, whatever one thinks of the mistakes of American administrations and European allies. Am I on the right lines?

Dr. Claudia Major: 42:43
Yes, I think so. And I think this is one of the reasons why I totally agree with Magdalena. I think Afghanistan is one element in the bigger picture of transatlantic relations. It's very important at the moment, but I don't think it's the most important one. And to be honest, I don't think that this will fundamentally alter the relationship. Let's see, now we can be surprised, but I think we have a lot to debate. We have a great and dramatic deception, which we discussed earlier in this debate, particularly about the way it ended about the lack of coordination, the anger of Europeans and their ability, political military, and all that. But most of those lessons are not new. So we knew it already. We knew the U.S. is looking to China. We knew that we had a lack of capabilities. We knew the Americans wanted more burden sharing. We knew Europe was no longer a priority. The question as well, what do we make of it on the national level and are we rethinking our procedures? Are we rethinking our concepts of civil military cooperation? What do we make of it at the European level? You and Europe as such, are we going to increase cooperation? Are we going to be more serious on defense? What are we going to do in NATO? How is the cooperation with the U.S.going? How's the cooperation with Turkey going to be? Is there going to be a bigger European effort for a stronger European pillar in NATO when the next planning process is coming around? So those are the questions I think, which we have to address. And there are other areas, as you rightly said, that are more important for cooperation. We see between Europe,the U.S.and Germany. And this is on China. For example, in the whole area of technologies, are we going to be able to cooperate in the regulation of new technologies? Are we going to cooperate on the export of strategic technologies? Are we going to find a common position on Russia? And we're going to find a common position on the nuclear issues. And these are the far more decisive ones, as hard as it sounds than Afghanistan. And this is a very sad statement as Magdalena already underlined and that I so, so much agree with you. To a certain extent we look more at what it makes with us than what it makes with the Afghans and the countries in the region, and that's a dramatic point to make. But in the end, I don't think it would count much because if you look forward, it's about China. It's about technology. It's about space. It's about maritime order, and this is what people concentrate on.

Anne McElvoy: 45:02
Well, thank you both very much, Indeed. Claudia Major and Magdalena Kirchner, for your insights and candor, were leaving our look for today into the nature of modern interventions, retreats, alliances, and what might follow from events on either side of the Atlantic. We'd love to know what you made of that conversation. How might a change in the Kanzleramt help influence the future of alliances? Do tell us your view. I'd love to hear them. And I will also reply on social media. We promised you a series on problem-solving. So we'd love to keep you listening. In the next show, we will get a look behind the scenes from the award-winning movie director Andres Veiel, who faces different challenges, different problems than the ones we've discussed today, but I'm sure will be just as fascinating. vielen Dank fürs Zuhören - wir hoffen es war aufschlussreich, thank you for listening to me., Anne McElvoy, your host, join me next time.

Speaker 1: 45:59
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