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SPIEGEL Interview with Defense Minister De Maizière
‘We Will Not Get Involved’ in Syria
Christian Thiel / DER SPIEGEL
German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière in Berlin: “Significant progress must be made in Afghanistan.”
The US has been critical of Germany for not supporting NATO in the mission in Libya. SPIEGEL spoke to German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière about Berlin’s skepticism of getting involved in Libya and Syria, and about the future of the NATO alliance.
SPIEGEL: Minister de Maizière, during his recent speech on the future of North Atlantic Treaty Organization, outgoing US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that there are two categories of NATO partners: those who fight and those who dig wells. Which category is Germany in?
Thomas De Maizière: In Afghanistan, we’re demonstrating that the Bundeswehr (eds. note: the German military) is a fighting army whenever it has to be.
SPIEGEL: When it comes to NATO’s mission in Libya, Gates recently said that Germany, among others, wasn’t doing enough. What is your response?
De Maizière: Our decision to not participate in the military part of the Libya mission was based on carefully considered reasons. It remains correct. But that doesn’t put us in the category of mere well-diggers, as you put it.
De Maizière: The Americans did ask us for military assistance again at the most recent NATO meeting. We turned them down. But we have made things easier for the alliance by allowing German AWACS planes to participate in the mission in Afghanistan. And there’s one thing I’d like to add: When you start something, you of course always have to know how long you can keep it up.
SPIEGEL: On the eve of the first NATO airstrikes, you said on German public broadcaster ZDF: “Could the fact that we are suddenly intervening now have something to do with oil? We can’t get rid of all the dictators in the world with an international military mission.” Would you still say the same thing?
De Maizière: Yes. The “responsibility to protect” a country’s civilian population if its government violates human rights is firmly anchored in international law. But does that mean we are allowed to intervene? Or does that mean we’re actually required to? I believe that each military operation must be analyzed to determine whether its goals can be achieved with appropriate means and within an appropriate time frame as well as how one gets out at the end. Every one.
SPIEGEL: You are dodging the question. You have insinuated that Germany’s NATO allies are only intervening in Libya because of oil.
De Maizière: No, I wasn’t insinuating that at all. I strictly formulated that as a hypothetical.
SPIEGEL: But your formulation still implies it.
De Maizière: During the interview, I was pointing out that there have to be criteria for each and every decision about humanitarian intervention — even if that presents me with a number of dilemmas. If I say yes once, then I’ll have to justify why I say no the next time. Refraining from action is also a decision. One must make a decision, but one can’t expect that — no matter what the decision is — that one can always emerge from this kind of matter with clean hands. I have to live with that.
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