Dr Paul Vallet: Welcome to the Geneva Centre for Security Policy weekly podcast. I'm your host, Dr Paul Vallet, Associate Fellow with the GCSP Global Fellowship Initiative. For the next few weeks, I'm talking with subject matter experts to explain issues of peace, security, and international cooperation. Thanks for tuning in. This coming week, May 9 is marked as Europe Day, 71st anniversary of the presentation by French Foreign Minister and “Father of Europe”, Robert Schuman of the draft Schuman Plan, which sealed post-war European reconciliation, reconstruction, and integration. In 76 years since the end of the Second World War, Europe has evolved to become a more peaceful and secure region and aspires also to provide more security for itself and its partners. To discuss this, I'm pleased to be joined today by Colonel Markus Schneider. Colonel Schneider is currently the Senior Defence Advisor to the GCSP, where he was seconded by the German Armed Forces the Bundeswehr in June 2020. Colonel Schneider is a graduate of the German Armed Forces, Command and Staff College in Hamburg, and comes to us after completing his latest command of the Logistics Department of the Rapid Forces Division in Stadenhoff. He's exercised an impressive number of command positions in operations abroad as well, in Kosovo, in Iraq, in representation at NATO, the EU and also in Israel, where he attended the National Staff College. And of course, as an instructor at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Hamburg, the Bundeswehr University in Munich, and , I believe all of this has been quite a fitting preparation for you for your tasks now at the GCSP. So, it's a real pleasure to have you for your insights here today. Welcome to the podcast.
Colonel Markus Schneider: It's a pleasure to be here.
Dr Paul Vallet: Well, my first question to you is on comparing your experiences in Germany and Switzerland, Germany, and Switzerland, of course, have different histories and international positions. And external policy orientation supports neutrality is, of course, the big difference between the two of them. But could you tell us whether you find points of convergence in their respective actions towards international peace and security?
Colonel Markus Schneider: Thanks, Paul, for that question. Germany and Switzerland are direct neighbours. And the relationship is, for my point of view, really good. Although you're right, both have different approaches and positions to some aspects of peace and security. I totally agree that especially the German history is still a driver for a number of our different positions, evaluations, and approaches. Additionally, the German, NATO and EU membership are, for me, the biggest aspects for different approaches. The German role in both institutions is the main driver for our way to tackle challenges to security and peace. And so therefore, that there has to be by culture and by organisation, different approaches, but also economic and cultural aspect as our other drivers. But there are, of course, a number of commonalities. First of all, I think we have a common sight on security challenges without any prioritisations, tensions rivalries and risk along European borders, the behaviour and action of Russia and China, and the close connected, hybrid threats to that cyber threats and disinformation strategies and the rising use of conventional forces, but also ongoing danger by Islamic terrorism are only a few among them, and most dominantly at the moment, climate change and pandemics. So, we both have a common side on those things. And with both countries, we see the United Nations as the main actor for peace and security, especially in the wider understanding of security, including, as I said, climate change and other aspects. Therefore, most States see a seat as a non-permanent member in the Security Council as an important step to reach and to work on these issues. So, Germany wasn't in United Nations Security Council in 2019 and 20, or Switzerland will hopefully be there in 2023, and 24, and Germany again and 2027/2028. So, you see, we have also working in different organisations, similar approaches to that. Additionally, I think we have the same approach to the use of soft power, we see the comprehensive approach as the best way to tackle those issues, the coordination of all means and assets in one country and together with likeminded partners, but for all that it's important to discover upcoming threats as early as possible. So, I think we have also a common understanding of the necessity of intelligence analysis. And of course, this also includes the use of military. I think most states see this as a mean, however, not as the first or as the most important mean. However, the ability for self and common defence is important. So, this also includes that we have to have capable forces. So, I follow the current Swiss campaign about a new fighter jet with great interest. Additionally, if military is used, Germany and Switzerland, we both see UN mandate as a big necessity for that. So also, we see that there is a necessity for common standards. So, we work together in some of the NATO and EU project where Switzerland as a partner is aligned. So, I think this makes clear that there are several fields where Germany and Switzerland can and should work together.
Dr Paul Vallet: You've already touched a little bit on the notion of a soft power in in our first question, I wanted to return to this a little bit, also given in mind that among with the other specificities that we can perhaps see between a country like Germany and a country like Switzerland, of course, many of them also have Germany's basic orientations are themselves also defined by the provisions that are actually written in Germany's Basic Law, there's so many of the, in particular, I would say, Germany's position and role within an integrating Europe are things that have been written into the constitution were already defined in the post war era, and also after reunification. So I was wondering, given your experience, now that you've been at GCSP is as well is whether you see some differences, or some necessary differences in proximities, between a concept of soft power that will be defined in a German way, if I can call it this way, and a concept of soft power that is practiced by a country like Switzerland.
Colonel Markus Schneider: Thanks for that question. I'm not a real specialist than that. And I'm not really aware of whether we really have a clear concept for use of soft power in Germany, but as I said, from my point of view, both countries really rely on soft power as an important tool. And if we take a look at some of the reports coming, for example, from Soft Power 30, or the Brand Finance Global Soft Power Index, we see both states aligned in the top 10 of the states using by having soft power. For example, Soft Power 30 ranks Germany is number three, and Switzerland is number six of 30 states and Brand ranks Germany two and Switzerland eight. So, you see, both have to have their soft power. And both are aware of that and are using it also being aware of some weaker competencies in that field. However, I see that, as I said, soft power is an important tool for Germany, but it's always only one tool. So, and we are aware of hard power as well. And so maybe Germany is more in a way of using smart power. So, having both assets, and in comparison, Switzerland, I think, to my point of view is more and soft and less than a hard power approach. So however, we are both using it, and we are both aware of that. And I think that's a good asset, especially as we are both dealing with a comprehensive approach to tackle all those issues.
Dr Paul Vallet: Thank you for that. I think that introduces quite easily also my fourth question. It's a trend we've been observing for already a few years. But I think the pandemic has also been an occasion to underline the importance of this concept. And that's the one that's been much discussed about European strategic autonomy, however that that is defined. So, I was wondering whether you've reflected on the role that Germany can contribute to elaborating this notion, defining it or perhaps putting it in in action, and of course, doing this in accordance with its existing principle partnerships for all things security related that are the EU and NATO.?
Colonel Markus Schneider: That's one of the really interesting and important question for Germany. I think that the notion of European strategic autonomy, it's more French term, not that much German language. Germany is more than willing to support almost all initiatives which strengthen European capabilities. And by that the ability that Europe can act and react to a current security challenges, however, we see NATO and the European Union as the main pillars and so there's not an either or there is a both. The European Union is facing several current challenges at the moment, Europe has to stand together showing solidarity, and capable of acting, especially now in this pandemic, which worked to my point of view, not that well in the European pandemic. However, in other fields, it really worked really, really well. The Global Strategy 2016 was a good step into that direction. So, the intention to take Europe cooperation in the area of security and defence to a higher level and make faster decisions and act more effectively, especially by better a interlink of our civilian and military instruments. Since then, we have started a number of new approaches in European Union for a common security and defence policy. First of all, of course, PESCO is a point where we really try to strengthen the European pillar. So, the Permanent Structured Cooperation of 25 European Countries with a framework started in September 2017, which includes, I think, at the moment 20 political binding commitments, in, for example, increasing defence spending of closer cooperation in developing military capabilities. And here Germany takes a big role, taking over the responsibility for several projects in the area of PESCO. But PESCO is flanked by two other initiatives. First of all, the Coordinated Annual Review of Defence, CARD, and the European Defence Fund EDF. CARD as the planning instrument to set common varieties for EU cooperation for the first time and identify potential for joint projects. And this includes a system of monitoring the national defence spending in order to identify opportunities, and here it has Germany really keen to step forward. The European Defence Fund, the third pillar is, I think, the really important part because this is for the first time that a European budget is can be used for defence issues. So, the chance to co-finance development, procurement and buying of prototypes for European Member States is really a unique thing. And so, by that we want to create incentives for cooperation, increase the efficiency, and also by that to increase the competitiveness of European security. So, with the three core defence initiatives, we have, for the first time, a system of interlocking complimentary and dynamically reinforcing instruments. Additionally, Germany tries to strengthen the European pillar by an initiative starting with our presidency in the second half of 2020, where we started, the attempt by creating a strategic compass. This Strategic Compass Initiative is an attempt really to build a strategic document and on how and when do you should be able to do and to react in crisis management, the first step is already almost done, this is the Joint Threat Analysis of the European Union Member States and then to examine whether and how you can or must react. And this is those connected, of course, with the relationship to France. And not only because of the strategical past, but of course, with all the relationships we have with France. So, this shows a little bit now stressing the European Union, that Germany's tries to strengthen the European pillar in line with these initiatives, however, without neglecting the USA. So now we come to NATO, NATO as far as the core pillar for the transcend transatlantic link and collective approach to come defence we see NATO is really strong. However, there is still room for improvement. And the strength comes from its adaptability and but only this can only work when we work really together. And especially the aggressive behaviour by Russia has shown us that we have to work together. And here Germany is also really eager to participate not only by our presence in the enhanced forward presence in the Baltics, but also by our air policing above the Baltic area. Additionally, we try to strengthen NATO and the European pillar in NATO by taking over the joint support and enabling command in OM or building up that and other initiatives to ensure the military forces can be deployed quickly in and through Europe. And also, we are working in the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force VHRJTF we are participating in the frame of nations concept of NATO and also in the NATO Readiness Initiative. So, stressing again, closing European capability gaps does not compete with NATO, but makes a direct contribution to the capability profile. So close cooperation with the NATO. EU is also crucial to meet again, the new challenges for NATO. As I said, already, Europeans and Germany have to put more into the balance. And this leads us of course, when we speak about NATO in Germany to the question of defence spending in NATO, therefore, we agreed in 2014, to the defence investment pledge, and we still stick to it. However, we see the necessity of substantial financial growth based on the actual needs of our armed forces, because this increases reliability as an important side. However, cash is not everything capabilities, and contributions have to be taken into account. And this has to be discussed again, maybe the next Summit 2021, when we might start a discussion about a new Strategic Concept might be the right point then. So again, now coming back to the point of European Strategic Autonomy, I think it's important to strengthen the European capabilities, however, never by weakening the transatlantic bond, sorry for being quite long. But I think it's important to explain that, when we speak only merely about the importance of European strategic autonomy, we might jump too short.
Dr Paul Vallet: No problem. I think the historian and both the international relations specialists in me appreciate this range of a quite thorough analysis on your part on the concept. So, thank you very much for that we do have time, I think for a last question. And that too, I think, is being inspired by my hats in international relations and in history, having looked also the history of Europe before 1914. I noticed, of course, that with the pandemic and also further trends, we experienced, often in in Europe, a negative feeling about the notion of globalization and participating in it. And I know that in for Germany, in particular, the notion of actually running a so-called Weltpolitik is also something that, you know, raises a lot of questioning and soul searching. But I was wondering whether in respect to this notion of actually engaging with the wider world, not just in in Europe, do you feel that Germany and the Germans are finding a role for themselves in the global community now?
Colonel Markus Schneider: Interesting and challenging question, Paul, I remember the Munich Security Conference in 2014. And I really appreciate it and heard with great interest when our former president Gauck spoke about Germany's role in the world and what does it mean, reflections on responsibility, norms and alliances, and his questions and remarks echoed by our German Foreign Minister and also about Minister of Defence show that Germany is aware of its responsibility to contribute to solutions to the threats in the world. And this not only just by words of solidarity, but also by contributing very actively and taking over also a responsible role in that. So, you see, we are aware of that, and the discussion is ongoing. However, when we speak about 2004, we have to speak about 2010, when the predecessor of President Gauck, former president Köhler , had to resign from his presidency for speaking about national politics, driven by interests, and speaking about the bigger role of Germany. So, you see, this, this discussion is quite old. In comparison, however, it's heavily discussed and quite controversial. So many States also, and organisations are looking at Germany to do more and to take over lead. But again, this is seen internally and externally not uncontroversial. So even if Germany is willing and able to take a bigger role, and this might not be appreciated by all. But this is only one point, having said that, I think Germany has already its role in the world, and in the global community. I tried to explain that when I spoke to you on the United Nations about NATO and European Union, I think we're taking over our responsibility. But maybe we tried to do this not that much by harsh proposals or decisions or military interventions, we are participating in United Nation nations in UN operations and European Union missions and operations and we are participating also in other fields as I said already, when we using soft power, so I think we try to contribute our parts to improve the capabilities of the organisations and try to fulfil our role in the global community and by that solving emergency cases. However, it might not be what others expecting us, but it's maybe the discussion about expectation management. So, I hope that answers your questions.
Dr Paul Vallet: Well, very glad to hear all of this. And of course, to continue to look at the many positive and creative ways that Germany can contribute and certainly your presence here at the GCSP is also something that's very much appreciated, as has been often the regular German participations in our courses and so on. So, we're, as this is all we're going to have time for today. I want to thank you very much, Markus, Colonel Marcus Schneider, for joining us today.
Colonel Markus Schneider: It was a real pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.
Dr Paul Vallet: You're welcome. So, to our listeners, please listen to us again next week to hear the latest insights on peace, security, and international cooperation. I want to remind you that you can subscribe to us on Anchor FM and on Apple iTunes. You can follow us on Spotify and on SoundCloud. I'm Dr Paul Vallet with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. And until next week, bye for now.
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