France has intervened in Mali to stop an assault of rebel forces from the north of the country. While Britain has supplied two transport aircraft to airlift equipment to the West African state, Germany initially remained hesitant. What is clear is that the country will not send combat forces, but will probably provide logistical, humanitarian and/or medical support. Comments from the governing coalition experts pointed towards a lack of consensus regarding what such help would entail. Nevertheless, Tuesday night it was reported that France and Germany are in negotiations to use German Transall aircraft and that a decision will be announced by Thursday.
Germany’s role during the war in Libya drew a lot of criticism from its partners. Hence, it was clear that Angela Merkel’s government would not be able to stay out of this conflict entirely. However, its reaction sticks to an established modus operandi. Germany has gotten rid of the highly moralized arguments that dominated the discussion about sending military forces abroad during the 1990s. The recent end of conscription went hand-in-hand with a hasty attempt to form a fully professional army. At the same time, do not expect that Germany will take such an active role again as it did in Afghanistan (some might beg to differ on the “active” part) in the near future. It will try using other measures (such as export of weapons and military equipment or supporting other countries in military campaigns where necessary) or only send troops where it can guarantee relative safety for its soldiers (Patriot rockets in Turkey).
During the red-green administration Joschka Fischer and Gerhard Schröder gave Germany an active foreign policy profile, taking a leading role on Kosovo for example. We cannot expect such an approach from Westerwelle and Merkel; their default mode for politics remains hesitation and low profile. In addition military interventions are largely unpopular in Germany and it is an election year.
Update: The German government announced today that it will indeed send two aircraft to support French operations. Merkel said that the “the terrorism in Mali is not only a threat to Africa but also to Europe”.
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