1st Edition

The Responsibility to Defend Rethinking Germany's Strategic Culture

    The rise or resurgence of revisionist, repressive and authoritarian powers threatens the Western, US-led international order upon which Germany’s post-war security and prosperity were founded. With Washington increasingly focused on China’s rise in Asia, Europe must be able to defend itself against Russia, and will depend upon German military capabilities to do so. Years of neglect and structural underfunding, however, have hollowed out Germany’s armed forces. Much of the political leadership in Berlin has not yet adjusted to new realities or appreciated the urgency with which it needs to do so.

    Bastian Giegerich and Maximilian Terhalle argue that Germany’s current strategic culture is inadequate. It informs a security policy that fails to meet contemporary strategic challenges, thereby endangering Berlin’s European allies, the Western order and Germany itself. They contend that:

    • Germany should embrace its historic responsibility to defend Western liberal values and the Western order that upholds them.
    • Rather than rejecting the use of military force, Germany should wed its commitment to liberal values to an understanding of the role of power – including military power – in international affairs.

    The authors show why Germany should seek to foster a strategic culture that would be compatible with those of other leading Western nations and allow Germans to perceive the world through a strategic lens. In doing so, they also outline possible elements of a new security policy.

    1. Introduction

    2. The Sources of German Conduct

    3. Germany’s Troubled Security Policy

    4. Defence Procurement, Technology and Industry

    5. A New Strategic Mindset

    6. Elements of a New Security Policy


    Dr Bastian Giegerich is Director of Defence and Military Analysis at the IISS. He previously worked for the German Federal Ministry of Defence in research and policy roles and is the author and editor of several books on European security and defence matters.

    Professor Maximilian Terhalle is affiliated with King’s College London. Between 2019 and 2020, he served as Senior Adviser to the UK’s Ministry of Defence. Previously, he taught at Columbia and Yale universities’ security programmes and undertook field work in China and Egypt. His work focuses on hard security, strategy and world order; he has written or edited seven books and published widely in international newspapers and journals. He is a Lieutenant Colonel (res.) in the Bundeswehr.

    ‘Without doubt, this is the right book at exactly the right time! Despite COVID’s media predominance, the dangers to our freedom have not simply faded away; quite the opposite. With their novel analysis piercing through the layers of Germany’s strategic wavering, Giegerich and Terhalle demonstrate precisely that. For anyone aiming at taking over executive responsibility for Berlin’s foreign and security policy after the federal elections in September 2021, this is a must-read.’-- Friedrich Merz, Member of the German Bundestag (1994–2009), Chief Whip and Minority Leader (2000–02) and member of the CDU/CSU Government Team for the 2021 federal elections

    ‘This is an in-depth study of a crucial topic. Well-argued and well-researched, this book offers an original take on a timely and important subject with broad implications for the future of European and transatlantic security.’-- Dr Benedetta Berti, Head of Policy Planning, Office of the Secretary-General, NATO

    ‘Appearing just before a historic German election that marks the end of the Merkel era, this excellent and illuminating study by Bastian Giegerich and Maximilian Terhalle could not be more timely. It provides a succinct analysis of the strategic questions besetting Germany and argues forcefully for a more forward-leaning posture.’--Dr Constanze Stelzenmüller, Fritz Stern Chair, Center on the United States and Europe, The Brookings Institution

    ‘Giegerich and Terhalle make a reasoned and urgent appeal for Europe’s wealthiest state to take responsibility for defending the Western order in which it has for so long thrived but whose strategic foundations it has often neglected. Any German who believes that things can continue as they are at present should read this book.’-- A. Wess Mitchell, former US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe

    ‘This book presents an excellent and comprehensive analysis of the many deficits of current German defence policy. It is a must-read for everyone interested or actively involved in German defence and security policy.’-- Professor Dr Joachim Krause, Director, Institute for Security Policy at the University of Kiel – ISPK

    ‘Germany’s strategic trajectory remains largely aimless, conceptually, politically and militarily, at a time of growing security challenges. The superbly qualified authors offer a road map to move Germany’s security debate from echo-chamber politics to answering the question: what is Germany’s power for?’-- Professor François Heisbourg, Senior Adviser for Europe, IISS